Governments and companies worldwide are working together in a global effort to reach net-zero by 2050, but what’s the level of commitment needed if we’re going to successfully reduce CO2 emissions? How do we achieve this?
In the ambition to limit global warming to 1.5 °C and have an effective impact on climate change, there are many areas that need to be addressed across the seven sectors of power, industry, mobility, buildings, agriculture, forestry and waste. Whilst predominant factors of worldwide, political concern and for immediate attention continue to be technology, costs, demand, production and skills/jobs, there are areas where we as businesses can take decisive action now to ensure greener alternatives are being adopted.
Leading companies across all divisions are increasingly acknowledging that they have an environmental responsibility to society both locally and beyond, and are actively looking to transition to zero-carbon processes both internally and externally. We are beginning to see companies participate in new decarbonisation initiatives and projects launched by governments and prestigious organisations within the UK and across Europe.
In 2021, we saw the UK Government launch the UK Business Climate Hub; a national initiative dedicated to supporting and encouraging businesses to reduce emissions in line with We Mean Business Coalition, the Exponential Roadmap Initiative, the United Nations Race to Zero campaign and the International Chamber of Commerce.
In the pledge to halve emissions by 2030, NanoSUN signed up to the global SME Climate Hub alongside over 100 companies from all around the world. Projects such as this are valuable in that they assist small to medium business in calculating their carbon footprint and establishing key areas of action to lower internal emissions. Since joining the incentive, NanoSUN has gathered data from across the whole company over the last 2 years, considering all areas such as employees‘ commutes, business travel, gas and electricity used on site, and materials bought for construction. This has covered all three scopes of emissions – Scope 1: direct emissions from the company (i.e. from fuels burnt on site), Scope 2: indirect emissions from purchased electricity and Scope 3: all other indirect emissions.
Many corporate commitments do not require companies to account for their scope 3 emissions, since the sources of the emissions are considered external for the company. However, these indirect emissions often make up the majority of a company’s carbon footprint and ignoring them is simply greenwashing. In 2021, over 99% of NanoSUN’s emissions were scope 3, with 98% of these being from purchased goods and services. Reducing NanoSUN’s emissions is therefore going to rely heavily on working with suppliers and encouraging them to adopt a net zero strategy. Taking responsibility for these emissions is of huge importance and can create a domino effect, impacting more than just the immediate company, by influencing suppliers, customers, contractors and employees to adopt sustainable practices.
As well as working with suppliers to reduce the carbon footprint of purchased materials, NanoSUN is committed to taking actions to reduce its emissions in all areas of business, making low-emission commutes more feasible for all employees, and ensuring offices are insulated and as energy efficient as possible.
Calculations and highlighting emission hotspots have been the main focus for NanoSUN since signing the SME Climate Hub pledge. Reporting systems have been set up to ensure ongoing calculations of the company’s carbon footprint are captured, such as a system that allows employees to input their commute each month. NanoSUN has recently created a dashboard to provide an ongoing summary of its progress, which is visible for all to view here. This encouraging everyone in the company to keep an interest in sustainability and be a part of our journey to lower our emissions.
We also saw the EIT Climate-KIC and the European Innovation Council introduce its Race to Net-zero scheme, in which 80 EIC accelerator start-ups, scale-ups or SMEs were invited to participate in a five-month programme. Working with climate and life-cycle-assessment experts, the initiative helps companies to understand, measure and forecast the CO2 emissions of their product or services to mitigate climate change. Having signed up for the project, NanoSUN has since calculated the carbon footprint of its Pioneer Mobile Hydrogen Refuelling Station, which has highlighted key areas for attention and actions that can be taken to reduce emissions throughout its development, use, and lifetime.
For this EIT-EIC scheme, NanoSUN has taken the case of refuelling intracity buses with green wind-powered hydrogen and the impact of the Pioneer enabling fuel cell buses to replace diesel buses. This has been calculated by considering the emissions avoided from diesel compared to the emissions from the manufacture and transport of the Pioneer and associated emissions with hydrogen production.
Upon analysing the production of NanoSUN’s Pioneer, it was found that the emissions generated during manufacture were less than 1% of the total emissions a Pioneer mitigates. In its lifetime, one Pioneer unit is projected to mitigate 1,600-16,00 tCO2e – that’s equivalent to taking 80-820 cars off the road for ten years! Further analysis on the Pioneer’s utilisation rates during its lifecycle also highlighted a saving of 4.2-5.8 tCO2e per every hydrogen fill - this equalling to 4-6 months of the average person’s carbon footprint in the UK.
However, transporting the Pioneer throughout its lifetime, between the hydrogen supply and the bus refuelling station was calculated to be approximately 5% of the mitigated emissions, assuming it to be transported via a diesel-fuelled truck. This highlighting the transportation of the Pioneer being a key area of focus for NanoSUN to address. Looking into low-emission transport for the Pioneer and developing the system such that it can deliver more hydrogen are therefore solutions that would assist in reducing its climate impact in this way.
Understanding the climate impact of products and services can be daunting. Collecting and capturing data and analysing an item’s carbon footprint can be costly and time-consuming. However, as we see more support become available, it is becoming more achievable for companies to gain the product insights they need to meet sustainable objectives and make meaningful changes.
In the effort to scale up technology and discover new solutions, we are also seeing an ever-growing number of government grants and funding being awarded. We’ve seen the UK Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) announce multiple investment opportunities, most notably its Net Zero Innovation Portfolio; a £1 billion fund dedicated to accelerating the commercialisation of low-carbon technologies, systems, and business models in power, buildings and industry.
The European Innovation Council (EIC) has also been pivotal in funding the introduction of new cutting-edge products for many growing businesses. As a growing SME, NanoSUN has been awarded an EIC grant to develop its breakthrough hydrogen refuelling technology – the Pioneer HRS. From supporting research teams to building new technology, the EIC offers a range of opportunities focused on getting innovative green ideas off the desk and into the market.
Another one of note is Innovate UK. A part of UK Research and Innovation, this innovation agency supports business-led innovation in all sectors and technologies; offering funding and support across all academic disciplines and industrial areas. NanoSUN has been a successful applicant for Innovate UK funding and are currently working closely with the organisation to develop a new, energy-efficient solution for cooling hydrogen.
It's clear that there is growing levels of support being delivered to companies of all sizes as the hydrogen industry continues to develop; offering promising opportunities that engineers, entrepreneurs and industry experts can employ to introduce their innovative ideas now.
While it’s evident that there are many opportunities for financial and government support in the mission to tackle climate change, there are also further areas for improvement that we, as responsible businesses leaders, can take control of. We can encourage our employees to make their commute eco-friendly. NanoSUN avidly promotes public transport and encourages employees to actively use its cycle-to-work scheme. We have also introduced an EV salary sacrifice scheme in collaboration with Pike & Bambridge, with plans to install electric charging points at our headquarters, the use of which will be free. This making it affordable for employees to move towards an electric vehicle.
NanoSUN are dedicated to creating a green culture in the work place. For our own team we actively encourage a sustainable lifestyle both within and outside of work. Emails on how we can reduce our climate impact in all aspects of day-to-day life are regularly distributed to the team, further enriching our sustainable culture and helping and encouraging employees to be more eco-conscious even outside of work, keeping the conservation of climate change ongoing.
Furthermore, on induction employees are made aware of the huge associated climate impact of a regular pension and how to switch to the NEST ethical fund. This encourages them to take control of their emissions and how their money is invested without any financial risk.
We’re now seeing an ever-growing number of companies making sustainability a part of their company values and ethos, advocating green alternatives and sustainable methods from the get go. As people become increasingly more conscious of the environment and more committed to making a difference, advertising these company aspects as part of the recruitment process has rapidly become the norm and assists in building a green culture from within.
In addition to developing an environmentally conscious culture, leaders can also introduce alternative processes such as sustainable purchasing to ensure suppliers use products that are made from recycled materials such as office supplies and furniture. Having recently tripled its workforce and relocated to a larger office space requiring further furniture and supplies, NanoSUN has continued to acquire sustainable office furniture to avoid surplus furniture from ending up in landfill sites across the UK. Sourcing recycled desks, seating, storage and screens, our office is fully furnished in a way that not only reduces the impact on our local environment but is also cost effective for the business. The key thing to note here, is that these are choices and decisions that can be made now. With little or no extra cost, adopting such processes is simply a matter of choosing to change.
Transitioning to net zero will require a global effort and whilst it’s understandable that some adjustments will be complex, challenging and costly, there are many areas that can be improved upon with minimal effort…we just need to be bold enough and determined enough to do it now rather than later!
Find out more about NanoSUN’s projects and sustainability efforts here.