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WIN-WIN – how to power a transformation and improve the bottom line

The journey to carbon neutral – the latest from Alan Rance of Midas Pattern Company Ltd.

Please excuse the pun but ‘things are certainly hotting up’ in the world of climate change! I see that Apple has recently committed to becoming carbon neutral for supply chain and products within ten years, 20 years ahead of the IPCC (International Panel for Climate Change) commitment to CO2Zero. This is indeed monumental as Apple clearly states that it expects its suppliers to play their part in helping achieve CO2Zero by 2030. The message to all of us from Tim Cook, Apple CEO, is that with this bold move they hope to be a “ripple in the pond that creates a much larger change.” I say the ripples from a small stone travel just as far as the ripples from a large one – you don’t have to be Apple to make a difference and create climate change momentum!

What does this mean for us? Well in my mind it is simple, If Apple will only work with suppliers that can demonstrate auditable carbon reduction figures, they aren’t going to deal with suppliers that can’t, are they? I think that as pressure grows on manufacturing businesses across all global economies to demonstrate viable carbon reduction schemes, it’s inevitable that supply chains will not tolerate resistance from businesses that don’t agree that the need for change is fundamental. In simple terms: ‘reduce your carbon footprint, prove that process is ongoing or slowly but surely lose your customers’! Clearly this will be very painful for companies which don’t embrace the need to #ActNow, but for those companies which want to get ahead of the inevitable legislation that will come, I see it as a great opportunity for innovation and growth. Indeed even Apple has, through necessity, begun development of the first ever direct carbon free aluminium smelting process through investments and collaboration with two of the organisation’s aluminium suppliers, directly challenging those suppliers to reduce climate damaging emissions. The outcome will not only enhance those businesses but reduce the impact aluminium smelting has on the environment; once the technology is refined it will be rolled out globally, that’s a ‘win-win’ in my book.

If the message for proactive businesses is to ‘get ahead of the legislation curve’ why not start that change now? It’s worth looking up PAS 2060:2014 and PAS 2050:2011, both standards that set out a framework for carbon reduction within business, auditors range from BSI to The Carbon Trust and if you’re serious about your CO2Zero journey, collection of data – including historic data – is intrinsic to the reporting process and demonstration of carbon reduction is fundamental within the audit.

Once you have the motivation and a reasonably clear view of how your data and performance analysis is going to work, you just have to do something! The first and easiest step, I would suggest, is a rapid review of your energy supply. Electricity provider and gas provider – are they ‘green’? If not why not? No excuses here, if you aren’t buying 100 per cent green electricity from a truly green provider you aren’t really trying, are you? Cost – if you think you can’t afford green electricity you probably haven’t had a quote, in my experience domestically green is cheaper than fossil, industrially its on a par, frankly even if it carries a premium what’s the excuse? Buying green power shows intent and it shows your customers and suppliers that you’re serious about where you invest your profit, I would argue that investing in 100 per cent green electricity is actually a very prudent and PR positive move.

Once you’ve sorted your electricity, look at your gas; did you know you don’t have to take pure natural gas? ‘Green’ providers can offer natural/bio blends, i.e. 10 to 12 per cent biogas blended with 88 to 90 per cent carbon offset natural gas. Obviously, any use of natural gas isn’t ‘green’ but at least that proportion is being ‘offset’. These blends are readily available to business and are roughly on par cost wise with pure fossil fuels, again there is no excuse not to do this, it is a massive step forward and shows real intent when trying to get your carbon footprint down, but there is another choice…

At Midas we have many gas fired warm air heaters, when fuelled by natural gas they are as damaging to the environment as pouring oil into the sea! We began a project to review replacing them all with electric infra-red and convection heaters; we knew even with a biogas blend being used they would destroy any chance of us becoming ‘process carbon neutral’. Obviously electric heaters powered by green energy would be the perfect solution environmentally, but practically they are far from ideal, with seven paint shops all drawing warm air to atmosphere it’s almost impossible to heat the working environment this way. When you factor in the cost both financially and in carbon terms of all those electric heaters, we estimated the real cost would be many tens of thousands of pounds and many tons of carbon to make this green change, then came the gamechanger!

100 per cent biogas

Our energy broker found us a company that could supply 100 per cent UK manufactured biogas, we signed a three-year contract on both our factories, absorbed a modest premium of just a few thousand pounds a year and bingo! Our annual gas consumption became essentially carbon neutral AND we saved over £60,000 in heat system replacements, win-win again, BUT this simple transaction (coupled with carbon credits generated by our own solar farm) took our process across the line and we effectively became ‘process carbon neutral’!

It’s worth looking at the trends here:

Electricity CO2: 2018 – 138 tonnes; 2019 – 58 tonnes; 2020 (12mth fc.) zero tonnes.

Gas CO2: 2018 – 61 tonnes; 2019 – 65 tonnes; 2020 (12mth fc.) zero tonnes.

Just an hour or two spent on the internet and telephone changed our electricity and gas from being carbon intensive to carbon neutral AND we have indirectly saved thousands of pounds, and all up and running within a month or so!

So simple, so transformative, so motivating, so responsible, so green, so what’s the reason not to #ActNow?