The race is on to reduce carbon emissions. It has taken a while, but the penny has finally dropped that mankind’s dirty habits are damaging the world at an unsustainable rate. Most developed nations and their governments acknowledge the gravity of the situation, and most responsible companies accept that to continue with reckless practices is not only irresponsible but bad for business. Increasingly, consumers are switching to ‘cleaner’ products and services – a trend that is unlikely to be reversed.
Corporate giants like Microsoft, Apple, BP and Shell, and many more besides, have responded to the public’s growing concerns by announcing ambitious targets for reducing their carbon footprints. But it will take everyone to cooperate if meaningful progress is to be made. It will also take time. Shell, for example, has said that it aims to reduce CO2 emissions by 20% by 2035 and to halve them by 2050, which means that a good proportion of those making the promises won’t even be around when the dates fall due. This is a long-term project.
A lot of people imagine that the main culprits must be the likes of oil companies, airlines and motor manufacturers, but this is not necessarily the case. A report on Sky News claimed that the ‘UK sandwich habit’ was as bad for the environment as 8m cars – this is because of the huge quantities of CO2 generated through raising animals for meat and dairy, by growing grain for the bread and the vegetables/fruit for the salad, and by packaging, refrigerating and transporting the end product. Every company has a part to play, irrespective of size, location and sector.
Engineering is no different. Our own goal is to be carbon negative by 2022 and to help us achieve this, we’re extending our accreditation to ISO 14001: 2015 across the group – it’s an international standard that specifies requirements for an ‘Environmental Management System’ (EMS). This standard, which is voluntary and sits alongside the more familiar ISO 9001, provides a framework that any organisation can follow.
But the benefits of compliance go further than ‘saving the planet’: immediate and tangible improvements can be seen in waste reduction, greater resource efficiency, lower costs, enhanced competitive advantage, increased new business opportunities and greater stakeholder and customer trust – as well as less exposure to any legal obligations.
Surely, it is better to act voluntarily now rather than wait to be ordered to change your ways further down the line, it’s called being pro-active.