Measure once, cut twice – measuring your business’s environmental impact

Climate change is happening. Every person, nation, and business needs to start to measure its environmental impact if we’re all to put sustainability front and centre in the way we need to.

But how do we get started?

If we’re to make improvements, we need to know where we stand right now. This means choosing the most relevant metrics and tracking them. Then implementing changes in the way we operate.

On a selfish note, it’s not just for the planet’s benefit. The advantages of being a more sustainable business are there to be seen. More sales. Better reputation. More efficiency.

With all that in mind, here’s how to start tracking your business’s sustainability:

What is sustainability?

A few years ago, the United Nations came up with a set of Sustainable Development Goals for countries. These SDGs suggested useful actions to tackle climate change while improving health, reducing inequality, and boosting economic growth.

There was also a recognition, there and elsewhere, that many places where sustainability and profit meet – such as product availability – need to prioritise minimising environmental impact if change is going to happen. There was an important need for:

  • Using renewable energy and energy sobriety (i.e. being more energy-efficient)
  • Sustainability training for everyone – most importantly, digital professionals
  • Decarbonising IT (an important target, as IT could be responsible for 60% of emissions by 2040)
  • Using tech to help adapt to climate change prevention targets
  • Minimising travel – especially in the healthcare sector but also across industries

“If you can’t measure something, you can’t improve it”

This classic quote sums up why it’s so important to measure our environmental impact. But for most of us, even figuring out what to track is a challenge. Some good fields to consider are:

1) Energy use tracking

A business’s energy use is the biggest contributor to its environmental impact. This means that any changes and improvements you make here have the largest capacity for change. You might try to:

  1. Use IoT to collect data – the Internet of Things, incorporating sensors and other data collection devices into systems, processes, products, and equipment enables brilliant data collection for later analysis.
  2. Track renewable percentage – the biggest change all of us can make is to go renewable. This means working out where all the energy we are using comes from. Even things like the ethics of our cloud computing platform of choice[Unknown A1] .
  3. Try an ESG platform – digital tools that track key Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) factors already exist and can be worth experimenting with.

2) Carbon emission monitoring

Emissions of carbon and other greenhouse gases are driving climate change. On top of switching to renewable energy suppliers, businesses should start tracking carbon emissions from things like:

  • Business travel (across all forms of transport and for all purposes)
  • Staff commuting
  • Upstream and downstream companies in supply chains

Again, IoT technology offers an excellent solution for data collection. It can also be implemented to reduce the need for travel. A common example is monitoring the condition of remote facilities, meaning maintenance crews need to visit less often.

Only by tracking the data over time can we hope to see the improvements we all hope to make.

3) Climate risk reporting

One of the most important aspects of sustainability is transparency and reporting. There are a large number of initiatives that UK businesses will soon be expected to meet the requirements of.

Each of these frameworks and standards can give you excellent ideas for the kind of metrics that can be useful to track and how to go about doing it:

  • The Department for Business and Trade’s requirements for the TCFD (Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures)
  • SDRs (Sustainability Disclosure Requirements) for UK businesses
  • The requirements of the ISSB (International Sustainability Standard Board)

4) Water usage tracking

Fresh drinking water could become an increasingly endangered resource in years to come. This means conserving and minimising water use whenever possible will start to become a concern.

Monitoring how your business uses water is going to become vital. This includes checking for water loss from things like old pipes or storage systems.

5) Waste management and circular strategies

Prioritising what is called the circular economy – a model that focuses on reusing, repairing, refurbishing, and recycling existing materials and products – should be a focus for all forward-thinking companies.

There are several useful metrics out there already. You might explore the Cradle to Cradle Institute’s efforts in this regard.

How to start measuring business environmental impact

Starting to plan what you are going to track in key areas like these will be mandatory for all UK businesses in a few years.

Making progress will involve having a serious strategy – as well as designating team members who are responsible for ESG planning and implementation.

Your business IT use could be the place to start. Rely on the same expertise already used by over 900 businesses in and around Bristol when you set up a cost and commitment-free chat about your tech with Dial A Geek‘s Chief Geek Gildas Jones today.