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by Peter Hinchliffe Director
Posted on November 15, 2021
Cop26 lightbulb moment
Last week's news around global climate strategy and its importance for COP26 to be a success, gave me a light bulb moment to focus on NXT's environmental impact, to play our part in some small way. I've felt compelled to assess the business to be more accountable. As responsible business owners, we’ve always felt that NXT's business decisions were environmentally sound but I had never really audited our processes, nor our suppliers for their full environmental credentials or impact on carbon creation. Having watched the COP26 coverage, I've felt that not just Governments should be responsible but we all have a duty of care to consider our environmental actions in the way we work and live.
My initial thoughts before any research have always associated environmental impact with travel and fossil fuels (as has the primary conference focus). With regular clients visits across the country, this felt an obvious place to start. The key decision we have made at NXT is to swap out Director's vehicles to full electric (EV). This decision was made even easier with the Governments incentives and grants, plus the recent fuel crisis has cemented this decision, but don’t get me started on wait times for cars and the over-inflated second-hand car market. When considering it further it wasn’t just journeys but the number of journeys by multiple team members that then add up. We’ve always advocated lift-sharing but with Covid, this has been difficult. We’ve certainly reduced the volume of face to face meetings by increasing access to clients via virtual means. We can all probably agree that this has been one positive from the last few terrible years. Also with Guildford’s terrific rail connections to central London, this has always been a choice that is a priority too. So travel improvements have been made what is next, I dug deeper to compare how other small business were reducing their footprints and started to look for some external guidance.
Immediately I found useful resources on carbon calculation for SME's and key contributors. I couldn’t find much on how digital agencies reduce their carbon footprint though as a point of reference. Naively we have always assumed that we aren’t making any impact. So I decided to continue to audit our business further. As I mentioned, travel causes significant a footprint but also considerations need to be made for energy consumption, heating/lighting and air conditioning units, especially when re-gassing units with refrigerant as this is very energy-intensive. After all our calculations we estimate our footprint to be 10 tonnes of CO2e per annum. One big impact I wouldn’t have considered was secondary contributors i.e. suppliers to the business. If we want to truly update our footprint then we need to make environmental assessments of whom we contract with.
NXT's supply chain
For website agencies, one of the largest costs outside of staffing is "software". NXT manage clients hosting and infrastructure across multiple environments. One of our largest spends currently is with Microsoft primarily with Azure. This leads me to some interesting articles around hosting environmental impact, read here. Currently, they produce over 10 million tonnes of CO2e! Interestingly they have recognised their responsibility with Microsoft pledging to be net-zero by 2030 - nice work, read more here.
Net Carbon Zero?
Carbon offsetting, climate certification and contribution to B Corp status (I'll blog about this process in the New Year) are all targets that businesses can strive for in having a sustainable environmental impact. With COP26's plan to reduce global warming temperatures and carbon consumption by creating a mandated target, it would be useful to create something formal to achieve for our business too. But is Carbon zero even possible? Well, it seems that the responsibility lies with us as a business to formally calculate all costs and then use a certified partner to provide an offset portfolio to support. This comes at a cost that we all must see as a "must-have" and not a "nice to have". We'll be exploring this further in our next update. It would be interesting if this process was formally pushed by the central government to consider as part of the business communities commitment to climate change but it adds more red tape. I'm interested in seeing how Microsoft's investment fund for technology can help create solutions.
Creating a plan
I'm going to leave this article here to revisit in the next 6 month's time. One thing I will be doing is incorporating environmental questions into our client scoping to ensure that, we as an agency, champion the conversation and take ownership of the options for customers. I'm going to share on NXT's LinkedIn page for comments and investigate offsetting and climate verification for NXT next.