Make the climate crisis history - Earth Day 2021

Support BITC's #Challenge2030 campaign so we hit net zero carbon targets

In the same week as Earth Day 2021, the UK government announced a wide range of CO2 cutting measures to cut emissions by 78% by 2035 to bring the UK more than three-quarters of the way to net zero by 2050.  How ambitious is this target to limit the volume of greenhouse gases emitted?  And how can we as businesses support the achievement of these targets?

Every cloud has a silver lining and even the dark cloud that is the Covid-19 pandemic has brought us just that.  Little did we expect at the start of 2020, before the deadly infection in Wuhan spread and governments across the globe introduced measures to restrict movements in the hope of stopping it, that 2020 would bring about any kind decrease in global carbon emissions.  Yet, after rising over decades, when countries imposed lockdowns last year, they fell by a significant 6.4%.  Road traffic levels in the UK alone declined by over 70% to the same levels last seen in 1955 after Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave the order to stay at home and work from home where possible.

This order, and those by other leaders, forced the world of work to take a crash course in video connective technologies to maintain business activities which we had not been inclined to take up to such a degree previously.

Efficiency North pivoted swiftly with all staff working on our agile model from Friday 13 March to maintain our services, business as usual, for member landlords, apprentice host organisations and apprentices.  Since BITC Chief Executive Amanda Mackenzie OBE inspired us with her keynote speech about the digital revolution and importance of digital connectivity at our 2017 annual conference, we’ve been developing our digital systems and processes so that staff already had the option to work remotely, when and where appropriate.

By eliminating commutes to our offices in Sheffield and Newport and journeys to meetings alone our 31 staff saved a total estimated 37.7 metric tonnes of CO2.  This isn’t counting the journey time and fuel saved by implementing our series of EN:Connect sessions for members online.  We will also be holding our annual conference and exhibition in digital format this year for the first time in June, making further reductions to our footprint and that of our customary 300+ guests.

Now that the UK is on the roadmap out of lockdown 3, it will be interesting to see how last year’s changes to working conditions and new habits will persist and what the impact will be on how we live overall. Traffic levels are already rising back to pre-Covid-19 lockdown levels.

Some large companies have decided to close their offices, whilst others are requiring employees to return to the office full time.  Efficiency North viewed the forced full adoption of remote working as an opportunity to reconfigure our working model, and our office provision, to harness the flexibility 21st technologies provide.  Work is now something we do, not where we go.  Our new Organisational Development Strategy incorporates an Accommodation Strategy and Digital Enablement Strategy to create ‘EN 2.0’.  The office environment will be re-designed to maximise productivity, with dedicated spaces for staff to collaborate, communicate and contemplate, whilst fully utilising the potential for home working, supporting staff to have a productive and comfortable workspace at home, using digital communications to reduce travel.

In December 2020 we launched a scheme to help staff purchase electric vehicles a through salary sacrifice scheme that they would otherwise not yet be affordable. The vehicles will reduce commuting and travel costs and contribute to the UK’s carbon reduction targets.  Once our offices re-open we aim to install charging points for electric vehicles in the car parks.

Being founded in a culture of collaboration, we’ve drawn on many years’ experience of working together to find solutions to get the housing and construction sector building back responsibly once the crisis is over.  Our Beyond 2020 3-year business plan includes targets for all branches of the organisation to reduce CO2 emissions and support the Climate Change agenda.

Our specialist procurement arm, EN:Procure, has most recently developed a Dynamic Purchasing System for consultants in the Retrofit and Renewal sector nationally. The DPS has 5 Lots designed to offer a dynamic route for Efficiency North’s members to support the achievement of targets for net zero carbon in the government’s Fairer, Faster, Greener National Infrastructure Strategy. It also offers flexibility for consultants as they acquire expertise and accreditation to meet developing requirements in this fast-evolving sector.

Lee Parkinson, Chief Executive, Efficiency North and BITC Yorkshire & Humber Leadership Board member said; “Efficiency North is proud to support Business in the Community’s Challenge 2030 campaign. It’s important that we all galvanise our businesses so that together we can achieve climate resilience and net zero carbon as close to 2030 as possible.  Earth Day offers an excellent opportunity for every business to reflect on their efforts to become climate positive. Following the Covid-19 pandemic we must build back responsibly to ensure our climate action strategies achieve a real reduction in our carbon footprint and help keep our planet safe from further harm.”

Rush hour on the A621 commuter route in Sheffield 9 April 2020


The Author

Written by Liz Butcher

Efficiency North group marketing and communications lead.