People and Culture

Our path to Net Zero

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As an innovation service provider, we’re aware our work can create a carbon footprint. That’s why in 2019 we started to look at ways to reduce our carbon footprint in the UK, and set-up a working group to tackle the issue.

Quick wins to deliver carbon reductions and efficiencies

As a starting point we looked at our internal operations and implemented the following changes: 

  • Switched our electricity supplier to Opus, which sells us 100% renewable energy.  
  • Decommissioned end-of-life servers and moved our computing and storage to the cloud.  
  • Built on the Cycle-to-Work scheme we had introduced and encouraged employees to avoid using taxis and cars in favour of public transport whenever possible.  
  • Used PedalMe as our go-to cycle courier for all deliveries and pick-ups in London.  

Measuring our emissions

In November 2021, triggered by COP 26, I joined TechNation’s #techzero initiative and pledged that we would become carbon neutral by 2022. #Techzero has a partnership with Supercritical, who I engaged to measure our 2021 carbon footprint. They achieved this through questionnaires with our staff and facility managers, analysis of travel and subsistence entries in our ERP system, and analysis of our accounts payable transactions from our SAP finance system.  

The results were we had emitted 213 tones of CO2 in 2021, or 1.56 tones per member of staff. This is about one ton per employee less than the benchmark in the UK service industry. The analysis confirmed that the inroads we had taken in the previous two years were having a positive impact.  

What was surprising was that the largest contributor (42%) of our emissions resulted from how our employees heat and power their homes. This was because we had switched to remote working in March 2020, as a result of the pandemic, and had continued with this for most of 2021. Likewise, business travel contributed relatively low emissions (20%) because almost all our business meetings had taken place via video conferencing calls during the pandemic. 

Offsetting our emissions

This year we took the decision to fully offset our 2021 carbon emissions. There are different ways we could do this such as paying others to avoid emissions or by planting trees. But neither of these options would remove any of the carbon that we have emitted permanently. It’s important that we take responsibility for our existing emissions and invest in quality projects. We therefore chose to offset our emissions through carbon capture and have purchased carbon dioxide removal for the equivalent of our 2021 emissions through BioChar sequestration.  

This involves treating organic matter, for example wood chippings or food waste, through a process called pyrolysis. Pyrolysis releases oxygen and creates pure carbon that is then sequestered into the ground and keeps it there for at least a thousand years. The purchase will be completed this week, meaning that we will be Net Zero from 1st January 2021, achieving our #techzero pledge a year early. 

Going beyond Net Zero

We don’t want to stop at Net Zero. We want to reduce our carbon emissions further and our goal is to achieve less than 1.2 tons per employee in 2022. To do this, we have embarked on several new initiatives.  

  • We are encouraging our staff to switch to renewable energy suppliers so that the power they consume while they continue working from home does not add to our carbon footprint.  
  • We are investigating how we can help our staff insulate their homes and replace aging gas boilers with energy efficient heat pumps.  
  • We have introduced an EV company car scheme that enables staff to lease an electric vehicle and pay for it through salary sacrifice.  
  • We are relocating our premises in Manchester and moving from an inefficient Grade-2 listed Victorian office building to an energy efficient BREAM office.  
  • We intend to extend the life of the computing equipment that we give to our staff by one year, thereby distributing the carbon footprint in the production and transport of the equipment over a longer period.  

We have some more work to do to make our operations more sustainable, for example reducing waste and increasing recycling rates. But the drive to Net Zero has greatly improved the sustainability of our UK operations. 

Zühlke’s global commitment to tackling sustainability

As a global company we recognise the leading role businesses like ours must play to deliver on today’s sustainability challenges. To this end, we have set ourselves a number of goals including: 

  • Becoming carbon neutral in 2021 across all 17 of our locations 
  • Signing the UN Global Compact’s Business Ambition for 1.5° Pledge, and reducing emissions in line with its existing science-based targets. 
  • Giving clients access to sustainably delivered services that deliver on sustainable goals. Starting with architecture consulting and development for the decarbonisation of the UK energy system. 

If you would like further information about Zühlke’s sustainability services or our approach to Net-Zero, I’d love to hear from you.

Contact person for United Kingdom

Wolfgang Emmerich

Member of the Board & Partner
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