Taking action to reduce emissions is top of mind for councils around New Zealand. However, they can only do so much on their own, and also need businesses to join the low emissions economy.

Three reasons why businesses may resist this message are:

  • not knowing how to take action
  • concerns about how difficult and time consuming it will be to measure their emissions and get certified
  • fear about the costs involved in making changes.

However, there is now a simple and low cost way for businesses to measure and get certified. And the marketing benefits of being Climate Neutral or Climate Positive can be huge.

As an example, the Chia Sisters became Climate Positive three months ago and domestic sales have since grown by 50%. They advise businesses to think about using their marketing budget to get certified, knowing that you will be doing something good that your customers will care about. Consumers are looking for businesses that are wanting to do good things.

Certification also boosted team morale — Chia Sister employees are proud to be working for a Climate Positive business. I went along to a talk they gave on the four step process they undertook to become certified.

Step 1 — Measure carbon emissions

The Ekos measurement and reporting process for businesses costs are:

  • micro (1-3 people) —$250
  • 4-15 people — $450
  • 15-30 people — $850
  • large — $1,000–$3,000
  • corporate (100+ FTE — contact Ekos to receive a quote).

The Chia Sisters found gaining the information required (such as annual use of electricity and annual waste quantities) easy to access. They rang their electricity supplier and waste contractor and asked them to provide the quantities.

Claire Keeling, who is the Community Partnerships Coordinator for Ekos, said   understanding your emissions profile is the most important thing to do in order to identify the problem you are trying to solve.

Step 2 — Reduce carbon emissions

It’s important to focus on reducing emissions as much as possible before moving to the offsetting stage. Understanding the most significant sources of your emissions allows you to take actions that will make the most difference.

The Chia Sisters took the following actions.

  • Installation of 32 solar panels (generating 16,000 W energy per day). They only need half of this electricity for their business, so are returning the other half of to the national grid.
  • Establishment of a policy of not air freighting any of their products (for example, in the past they had sent urgent samples to Japan)
  • Purchase of an electric car for their company vehicle.

Step 3 — Offset the remaining carbon emissions

The remaining emissions which they are unable to reduce mostly related to freight associated with their business (which includes exporting).

Once the Chia Sisters knew they had 22.5 tonnes of carbon to offset to be carbon neutral, they chose to offset by 120% to qualify as Climate Positive. The cost of offsetting their remaining emissions is $811.00 per year.

This money supports planting and management of the Rameka Forest Carbon Project in Golden Bay. This is based on $30/tonne, and results in biodiversity and soil quality benefits as well as being a carbon sink. (A Happy Valley Carbon Forest in Nelson is in development, and people will be able to buy carbon credits associated with this forest in two years’ time.)

For business owners who are worried about the ongoing cost of offsetting, here are the current prices.

If your current electricity bill is:

  • $300 per/month, it will cost $4.73 per month to offset
  • $1200 per month, it will cost $18.90 per month to offset
  • $4,000 per month, it will cost $63 per month to offset.

Here are the costs to offset return flights from Nelson (through Ekos):

  • Auckland – $9.12
  • Australia – $21.46
  • UK – $149

Here are the costs to offset waste:

  • 1 wheelie bin per week = 7.7 cents per week
  • 1 skip bin per week = 33 cents per week

Step 4 — Plan for future emissions reductions

Setting goals for further reductions in emissions is a really good way to future proof your business, recognising that the costs of activities that generate emissions will increase over time. For example, the Chia Sisters are aiming to reduce their packaging (in glass) by supplying their drinks in kegs to 50% of their stockists.

Zero Carbon Nelson

The Chia Sisters and Ekos have joined forces to launch Zero Carbon Nelson (which has a goal of 1000 businesses measuring their carbon footprint before 2021). The aim of Zero Carbon Nelson is to put Nelson on the map as the first city to go zero carbon. However, it would be great if other areas join the race to be first!

Thanks for reading this article. Please forward it to anyone you know who has an interest in this topic.