Moreover, with a commitment to doubling in size over the next five years, its strategy for growth required a platform that would be capable of underpinning the company’s expansion. To help realise this ambition Commercial has embarked upon a programme that will see it significantly reduce its carbon footprint.
Its endeavours to radically transform its operation to achieve this reduction have already been a major factor in the company securing over £5 million worth of business. By demonstrating that its commitment to doubling in size in the next five years will be achieved responsibly it has further reinforced its service offering and importantly engaged with customers and prospects alike.
Although supported by the entire Group, the programme was actually borne out of one woman’s vision for the company and is an example of how intuition when combined with savvy business acumen can be a definitive force for change and, ultimately, success. Though when asked, Simone Mann, co-founder and director of The Commercial Group and the woman responsible for this sea change, would say that the journey the company has begun is now more an obligation than a tactic for growth.
Here Simone highlights some of the areas the company has considered will provide the greatest reduction in carbon emissions enabling it to achieve its estimated target of 75 per cent.
“We don’t have all the answers, but we are proud to be leading the way in finding a solution to this critical issue. If every business does its part, however small, in combating climate change we can really make a difference. The key, I believe, is to learn from each other. What works for one business may not be appropriate for another but by sharing best practice you can find the right solution for you.”
The power of film
“I have never thought of myself as a ‘green’ person, but this movie was so shocking. To think that in as little as 50 years, the negative impact we have had on the environment will be irreversible should be enough to spur any organisation into action – quite apart from the obvious emotional imperatives.”
Invited to attend an event hosted by one of Commercial’s major clients, BSkyB, entitled ‘An evening with Al Gore’, Simone had no idea that this would become the catalyst for change within the company.
Moved to action purely from watching the Al Gore movie An Inconvenient Truth, the main part of the BSkyB event, Simone set about finding out how Commercial could work to have a positive effect on climate change.
The road to Damascus
“Commercial has not only embraced its necessary role in helping combat the climate change issue, but has taken an additional step to become an ambassador for the solutions to this very real problem.”
Sue Welland, Co-founder and Executive Director for the Carbon Neutral Company.
In response to the challenge of climate change, Commercial became CarbonNeutral in October 2006. This commits the company to reduce its net carbon emissions to zero within a set timeframe.
Following a report conducted by The Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Management (ECCM) which measured Commercial’s total carbon equivalent (CO2e) emissions for 2004-2005 at 8.94 tonnes per employee, Simone commissioned an internal review to analyse these figures and draw up a strategy to reduce the emissions by a substantial figure. Targets were set to reduce emissions by 25 per cent in the first six months, followed by reductions in 12 months of 50 per cent and in three years up to a staggering 75 per cent.
Following feasibility studies of different options, it was decided that a programme would be developed to concentrate on a small number of high impact projects. These projects covered aspects of the vehicle fleet, buildings, operations and combined energy efficiency measures, process changes and the use of renewable resources.
The programme has ambitious targets, and for the emissions that are unavoidable the company has embarked on an offset programme supporting projects worldwide including solar home light in India and Sri Lanka, wind power generation in New Zealand and energy efficient lighting in Jamaica.
More efficient use of existing vehicles
Commercial operates a substantial fleet of over 60 vehicles, which includes vans and cars. The vans are usually used for deliveries following pre-defined routes. The cars are used for a variety of purposes.
The van fleet has been equipped with tracking devices which have enabled the routes to be mapped, and with better planning a 25 per cent reduction in the distance travelled by the vans has been achieved. Combined with consolidated deliveries and driver training, this has allowed for a reduction
Implementation of alternative fuels for the van fleet
With vans travelling nationwide daily, it was no surprise that this area of the company was responsible for 42 per cent of its emissions – 84 per cent if all company vehicles are considered.
Currently the fleet is run on diesel and research has shown that they were ideally suited for biodiesel. There would be no need to change the existing fleet or its maintenance schedule and biodiesel is ideal for long distance driving.
To fuel the vehicles, Commercial commissioned a bunkered fueling station on-site. With the prospect of reducing the company’s emissions by over two thirds with this solution alone the initial outlay for implementation was a straightforward decision to make. Commercial then negotiated with a regional fuel supplier for the provision of high quality biodiesel from local sources, minimising the environmental impact further and providing assurance that any impact to business operations will be minimised.
Introducing green commuting initiatives
The report run by the ECCM showed that staff were commuting approximately 170,000 miles a year by car. Through initiatives such as lift share and bike to work schemes and the promotion of Green Transport Week, Commercial is looking to increase the number of staff cycling to work by 25 per cent which will see a 12 tonne reduction of CO2e.
Installing onsite renewable energy
Whilst the location of Commercial’s head office in the valley of Leckhampton Hill in Cheltenham limited the use of a wind turbine, the company is looking at installing a solar heating system connected to the hot water system which will significantly reduce the oil fuel consumption. Combined with a heat pump, this will lead to a reduction in the cost of hot water provision and in emissions by over 50%.
Moving to a renewable energy supplier
The current suppliers of electricity to Commercial rely primarily on coal for their power stations and as a consequence have a high carbon footprint. The alternative, chosen by Commercial, is to move to the largest specialist provider of renewable energy in UK. When completed, this move will be responsible for an overall reduction of 85 tonnes of CO2e.
Energy conservation within the office
This element of the programme was designed to involve staff in making Commercial a more environmentally friendly environment. A staff information pack was produced highlighting simple, but effective changes to the office that can offer energy saving benefits. In fact many of the suggestions were made by the staff. From introducing sensors and timers for lights in meeting rooms and other ‘general’ spaces and switching off monitors at the end of the day to replacing halogen lights with cold spotlights.
Although difficult to assess, the estimated reduction in energy bills achieved from the various initiatives was approximately 10 tonnes of CO2e.