Building a better business for the planet and our future
Building a better business for the planet and our future by Mark Davison CEO, Grant Instruments
Firstly, an apology. In the last twenty years, I estimate I’ve flown nearly two million kilometres on business. At the time, we had few effective alternatives like Zoom or Teams, and all of those trips seemed to be “crucial”. My business development activities created significant value for the companies I represented but in hindsight I’d like to say sorry. If we take a mid-range figure of 200g carbon dioxide emitted per km flown, I have personally added 400 tonnes of CO2 to the sky.
I say this in order to puncture any self-righteousness in what follows, before you do. I have no great insights or answers to give, only some observations. Almost all of us have woken up late to the climate emergency, but there is still (just) time to do something about it.
How SME Climate Hub has helped us along the way
How we’ve taken action as a business
We are a manufacturer and we use energy to make the world’s finest scientific instruments (causing Scope 1 and 2 emissions, in the jargon). We also pay thousands of strangers to pollute the planet on our behalf. These people mine, refine and bend metal and they drill oil and mould plastic. They dig rare earths out of the ground and make electronic components, and they move all of this material around with diesel-burning trucks and kerosene-fuelled airplanes. These indirect effects are euphemistically called Scope 3 emissions. Measuring, and then eliminating, compensating or offsetting all that carbon is going to be very difficult.
We started with the easier stuff. Later this year, we’ll move from our fifty-year-old, energy inefficient premises to a new, A-rated centre of excellence. We will use the most sustainable mix of energy sources that we can. We will encourage ride-sharing, cycling, and public transport. We will have car charging points and we’ll improve our recycling systems. We are already ISO 14001 certified, which has provided useful guide rails in the environmental monitoring process. We have also appointed a Carbon Coordinator, as a point person to pull together activities, and we’ve tried to build the momentum through employee action rather than imposing a top-down management initiative.
Slaying the Scope 3 monster will be challenging but crucial if we are to get serious about combating climate change. Just because you pay someone else to do a dirty job for you doesn’t mean you have no responsibility, but it also doesn’t mean you have no influence. We have started routinely asking suppliers about their plans for carbon reduction. We also get those questions in turn from our customers. We are examining our supply chains and operating processes for ways to eliminate waste, plastic use, packaging etc. Marginal gains, maybe, but they all add up.
I haven’t given up flying, and indeed I’ll be talking my first long-haul trip in over two years (to see colleagues and customers in the USA) this week, but our organisation flies economy and only when we absolutely need to.
None of the above works perfectly, but that’s okay. Failure is part of life for an entrepreneurial company, so why should this project be any different? Try things, measure the results, improve, repeat.
Why climate action matters to me
The climate crisis is personal to me. I want my sons and their descendants to have more opportunities than I did, not fewer. To achieve that aim for our children we need to give them a healthy and sustainable planet to live on. The fact that I now ride my bike to work and eat a low meat diet is largely symbolic, given my past crimes. However, symbols matter, small acts matter, intent matters. We can all contribute, so don’t get hung up on the apparent futility of personal or corporate action on a planet with 7.9 billion people. Do what you can, do it now!
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