Sustainability West Midlands Environmental Impact Report

Date of the report

July 2021

Author of the report

SWM

Purpose of the report

The aim of this report is to present SWM’s carbon footprint in the financial years 2019-20 and  2020-21 and compare it to the footprint of previous years. As we are a micro-enterprise, we are not obliged to report on our environmental impact. However, we do so to demonstrate good practice and identify ways to continue to reduce our impact on the environment. This report focuses solely on carbon footprint and does not include data for waste or water use which have been excluded due to the small size of SWM, and therefore comparably small waste and water use, which would also be challenging to monitor.

The report was written by Luca Mitchell and Amy Bostock, Volunteer Communications Officers at SWM from
June – September 2020 and September 2020 – May 2021 respectively.

Key Findings

  1. Total emissions in 2019/20 increased by 44.8% from 2018/19. However, this is mainly as a result of emissions from SWM’s office usage. For example, office emissions have increased by 50.5% whereas travel emissions have only increased by 23.7%. Although travel emissions have still increased by a considerable amount, office emissions also account for the greatest source of emissions at a total of 3,447 kgCO2e whereas travel emissions are responsible for 776.71kgCO2e.
  2. Office emissions have increased by a considerable amount largely due to an anomaly in gas usage from
    April-July 2019. Due to SWM’s office space being in a shared building, it proves difficult to calculate the
    exact figures of SWM’S share and to identify the reasoning behind any anomalous data. Therefore, despite SWM’s best efforts to reduce its carbon emissions, this report will show an unexpected increase in gas emissions.
  3. During the financial year 2019-20, the impact of lockdown associated with COVID-19 has had a minimal effect on the data included in this report as lockdown restrictions did not come into play until mid-March, i.e. midway through the final reporting month. Therefore, this report will include the transport and emissions data for the financial year 2019-20 reflected in tables and graphs as similar to the previous financial years.
  4. During the financial year 2020-21, all SWM staff were based at home during the reporting period due to Government guidelines, and meetings and events were restricted to virtual only. SWM staff did not use the office or travel for work. Therefore, this report will not include any data from the financial year 2020-21. However, recommendations in section 6.2 discuss the environmental impact of videoconferencing and working from home in more detail. It is also important to acknowledge that although this report shows zero emissions for the financial year 2020-21, SWM staff would have increased their domestic emissions working from home. For example, there will have been an increase in electricity and heating use in SWM colleagues’ households. However, due to the difficulty and impracticality in calculating these emissions, they have not been considered within this report.
  5. An extra layer of complication arises in that SWM has also moved office premises in April 2021, owing to the landlord selling the previous building. SWM only lets a small part of the new offices too, but it must investigate how it can  continue to monitor is environmental footprint once office-working becomes the norm again.

Recommendations

Office

  • SWM has moved into new offices which should be more efficient and are slightly closer to major public
    transport links. Therefore, when staff begin to return to the office, this should result in a reduction in
    emissions. The first step is to liaise with the new building landlords to ascertain how SWM can measure its
    proportionate emissions, which is likely to still be challenging but nevertheless important to keep track on
    its environmental footprint.
  • Work will also have to be done to determine if SWM’s office emissions can be compared to previous years,
    and we should also investigate how much control we have on electricity (lighting) and gas (heating) use.
    The greater control, the more confident we can be in measuring our emissions and, therefore, seeing
    actual reductions.
  • SWM should also investigate more accurately calculating the extra emissions associated with staff working at home as a
    result of the lockdown, and also whether emissions from certain practices, such as upgrading our ICT, should be calculated separately. This may provide a more accurate picture of our work-related emissions, rather than deeming them to be zero just because they cannot be measured.

Travel

  • SWM increased travel related emissions between 2018-19 and 2019-20, but this then fell to zero in 2020-21 because
    of the lockdown associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Working at home and video conferencing has now become the norm. While some travel to meetings and the office will be unavoidable post lifting of lockdown, it is important to continue to use the video conferencing facilities which are now familiar to everyone for meetings where face-to-face is not required. This will ensure emissions from travel are kept to a minimum.
  • Converse to this is the use of public transport. At the time of writing, public transport use is still not encouraged and SWM must be aware not to switch many of its business miles from train/bus travel to the car. Again, asking whether the travel is required at all is important. If it is, cycling or walking wherever realistic should be considered.
  • Implementing incentives/dis-incentives for green/non-green travel respectively may be an effective way of encouraging all staff, when they do have to travel, to do so as sustainably as possible.

Links and contact information

Please contact SWM at enquiries@swm.org.uk for more information.

Downloads

Sustainability West Midlands Environmental Impact Report 2019-2021