Green issues: CO2 emissions and your business

FD’s of small and medium sized businesses generally control finance, HR and
IT, and as a result are often best placed to make policy decisions that can have
a direct impact on the environment.

As FD of Seaward Electronic, a UK-based manufacturer of electrical safety
test equipment employing 150 people with a worldwide distribution network, I
believe all businesses have an obligation to minimise their impact on the

Over the past few months Seaward has taken the first steps towards
significantly reducing its impact on the environment and, in particular,
reducing its carbon emissions.

Change cannot be achieved without setting targets and the first thing we did,
even before benchmarking the business, was to set an ambitious target of
reducing carbon emissions by 20% every year for the next three years. The
purpose of a target in the early stages was to focus everyone’s mind on the
objective and not just view it as a whim.

Senior managers were involved at an early stage and I ensured they
participated in drafting our environmental policy that would provide a focal
point for business improvement activities. It’s important that all staff can
relate to the environmental policy and ours is short, punchy and worded in
layman’s terms.

Next, I set up a carbon management group which would have the power to drive
change throughout the business. Membership of the group was on a voluntary basis
and while a wide cross section of employees would be useful I was more
interested in having a passionate team. The results were good with half a dozen
people coming forward – just the right size for a group to be proactive.

Benchmarking the company’s carbon emissions was the next critical step. I
decided to use the benchmarking activity as an opportunity to identify wastage,
and as this was likely to take several weeks of solid work, the company employed
a student who, under my direction, carried out the appropriate analysis and drew
up an in-house emissions report. During this period support was received from a
number of bodies including the Carbon Trust and Envirowise, which provided
unlimited free advice.

The in-house emissions report was eye opening. Our initial estimates revealed
that our Durham manufacturing site was producing in the region of 400 tonnes of
CO2 per year.

The emissions report has now been presented to the senior management of the
business and an action plan has been drawn up for the next 12 months, which will
be driven forward by the carbon management group.

The great thing about this plan is that it not only reduces carbon emissions
but it saves the business money.


A significant 30% of our electrical cost relates to lighting and I estimate
that we are wasting 35,000 Kwh (£3,500) or 15 tonnes of CO2 every year. We have
introduced a number of best practices but are going to invest in systems that
will significantly cut the cost and amount of energy required to light the

Employees are now asked to turn off certain appliances at the plug when
leaving the office for the evening. In one year, one monitor left on standby
after hours uses 13kwh of energy, producing 5.5kg of CO2. Over the whole site
this equates to almost 2,000 kWh wastage and over 800kg of CO2 per annum.

As savings are achieved, I plan to reinvest into moving towards a 100% green
energy electrical supply for the Durham site with the aim of removing 100 tonnes
(25%) of CO2.

Before autumn, the business will rearrange its offices to avoid blocking
radiators and install radiator reflective panels to reduce the 70% worth of heat
(and therefore energy) currently lost through the walls. In addition, individual
supplementary fan heaters will be removed as they use an extreme amount of

These exercises will reduce heating costs and CO2 emissions by 15% and the
savings will be invested into improving our central heating.


Business travel accounts for more than half of our emissions and more than
25% of our emissions are from short haul flights. As we have three sites in the
UK and one in Florida we are now looking into improving our IT systems to cater
for web conferences.

We estimate that these improvements will save £6,000 a year and reduce our
CO2 emissions by 40 tonnes. Part of the savings will be reinvested into an
offsetting program to cover ‘essential’ flights.

While our sales team is generally very good at planning visits, a serious
dent can be made into the 66 tonnes of CO2 our cars produce. With immediate
effect we are introducing tyre pressure gauge key rings for all company car
users and, at cost of £8.99, I believe we will save £4,000 a year and reduce our
CO2 emissions by at least six tonnes a year. In addition, company car policy now
restricts the fleet to cars that do less damage to the environment.

Even the little things add up. With immediate effect water coolers will be
switched off overnight. Our two water coolers currently waste 1.92kwh a day with
an annual energy consumption of 701 kWh (£70) and 295kg of CO2 per annum.

In the medium term we are looking to purchase a baling system for our
cardboard waste and a compressed air system to reduce our business consumables.
The capital cost of will be in the region of £10,000 – but with an 18 month
payback period and an interest free energy efficiency loan from the carbon trust
these projects are no brainers!

In the meantime we are now working with our leading suppliers and designers
in order to determine which materials our products should be using in the future
and measuring the carbon footprint by changing materials. I believe that this
investment is worthwhile and will repay itself many times over as the consumer
becomes more environmentally aware when making purchasing decisions.

Seaward Electronic has a long way to go in order to achieve its aim of
reducing carbon emissions by 20% for the next three years. But the company now
has buy-in at all levels and it’s essential that we keep the momentum going. I
believe with strong cross departmental support we will achieve our aim.

Mark Marsh is FD of Seaward Electronic

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