How green is your office?

29 November 2021

If you can’t measure it – you can’t manage it. But where do you start?

Your heart sinks as you re-read that email from corporate HQ.

BPCC's green blog:

COP26 – after the party, the fallout
Car fleets, driving to work and ESG
Communicating the Green Imperative within your firm
How green is your office?
The Green Canteen

Management wants to know the carbon footprint of every one of its subsidiaries around the world – including yours. And not just for this year and last year – but for 2019, so there’s a base from which to measure future progress.

Your first reaction is – where will I find the data? Which of my staff do I put on this task? It means diverting them from planned activities. How long will it take them to do this? And how will they actually do it? How much did we spend on energy and water – don’t know – our landlord doesn’t show us the breakdown in the monthly invoice, it’s all included in one service charge. No one every asked before. And how much of our office waste is recycled? How should I know – all of it goes into one bin – our building doesn’t have waste segregation. How much CO2 was emitted travelling to our clients? Well, we do have data regarding the mileage of our car fleet – but now try splitting the fuel used in commuting from that used in driving to client meetings. It can be done – it’s just going to take ages. Much tedious work for my team when we really should be focused on doing something that fixes the bottom line after a financially bad year due to Covid.

You know what’s going on back at HQ. Someone up there wants a historic benchmark against which to measure future performance, across all operating units and subsidiaries across the world. These figures will go into the Annual Report and will be presented shareholders and media by management at the AGM. In your mind’s eye you can see the PowerPoint slide, with bars showing CO2 emissions in 2019 and 2021, country by country. You can almost read the press release, and the headlines in the business media.

So how to deal with this? If you dream up a set of figures that are too low, you won’t be able to show improvement going forward. But then if you dream up a set of figures that are too high… And what if the figures you submit are way out of line with those from, say, Sweden, Canada or Singapore? How about calling your opposite number in those countries to see how they will respond to the request? How seriously are they taking it?

At the end of the day, business has a responsibility towards the planet. Every business. If you can’t measure your carbon footprint, you can’t manage it. In time, this will become easier – thanks to a multitude of apps. Mundane tasks will become automated. As collecting carbon footprint data rises up the ladder of corporate priorities, the process will be made easier. Car fleets will be monitored, proptech apps will collect data about buildings’ energy usage. All this data will be stored in the cloud, AI will crawl all over it and suggest in real time where further savings can be made, where energy is being wasted and which car drivers pollute the most. Corporate HQ will be able to compare performance of all its operations around the world, again, in real time, and press the laggards to improve.

This is a few years down the road; in the meanwhile there’s no real alternative to biting the bullet and doing some work to assess how green is your office. Even if the historic figures are only an estimate, as long as that estimate is arrived at conscientiously, with an explanation as to how you arrived at your final figures, it will serve as a useful base from which to start. Each year it will become easier; the first step along a long road is always the hardest one to take.

Day 1: BPCC’s green blog on COP 26 in Glasgow
Day 2: Methane emission pledge hailed as success on second day of COP26
Day 3: Coal and climate finance are the focus of the third day of COP26
Day 4: Youth activism flavours fourth day of COP26
Day 7: Barack Obama’s speech highlighted start of second week of COP26
Day 8: Gender equality – focus of eighth day of COP26 – overshadowed by new heat calculation
Day 10&11: China-US ‘breakthrough’ as final statement is hammered out
Summary: COP26 disappoints with the loss of strong commitment