Angela Monaghan, our Senior Operations and General Manager, explains the practical steps we’re taking to mitigate our carbon footprint.

I was lucky enough to join Bates Wells’ operations team just after they had made a commitment to go carbon neutral from 2019 onwards. It can be hard to understand what going net zero means so I thought I would put something together to explain how it works for Bates Wells. Effectively we have decided to measure all the carbon emissions that come from our practice, to keep reducing those where possible and to purchase carbon offsets where we can’t to neutralise the impact of our operations on the planet.

The team here had already made amazing progress on this, having reduced our carbon footprint by 400 tonnes of CO2e in the five years running up to 2018 and by more than 50% in the three years since we moved into our new building.

But how did they do this? The key factors included an office move to a more modern building in 2015. We also put in a number of small and big changes which all helped including:

  • Encouraging our landlord to switch to a renewable energy tariff
  • Adopting a procurement policy that favours more sustainable suppliers
  • Zero waste to landfill policy in our new building which we supplement by recycling things like batteries, crisp packets and contact lenses for our people
  • Reducing our printing (and offsetting any printing done through the Print Relief scheme)
  • Buying recycled paper (we are a law firm so we use a lot of paper despite all our best efforts)
  • Limiting the number of deliveries that come to us from main suppliers to 2 x a week
  • Moving to glass milk bottles and looking at dairy-free alternatives
  • Using bicycle couriers as a default where that is practical
  • Encouraging sustainable travel including public transport, bikes and cycle to work scheme
  • Bottling all water in-house

We don’t have any scope 1 emissions (direct emissions from company vehicles and facilities). Up to 2018 we were measuring and reporting on all of our scope 2 (indirect emissions from purchased electricity, heat etc) and some scope 3 emissions  (indirect emissions including through our supply chain and purchasing). This meant measuring electricity usage, paper used, business travel, waste and water.  For 2019 we have extended this to include printed folders and binders, our people’s commute to work and emissions from air conditioning. The most challenging of these for us has been the emissions generated by our people’s commute to work but we got really good feedback and data from the team when we asked them to tell us how they get to work. We have now collected all the data and we have had it verified by fellow B Corp, Green Element.

We are in the final stages of agreeing how to balance our emissions for 2019. We are involved in B Lab UK’s Climate Collective and will be taking learning from this group and others on how best to balance for 2019 and we will update you once we have. Looking forward we need to think about how and what to measure given the almost complete switch to home-working since March 2020 so these are interesting times to be looking at carbon measuring and reduction. We’re excited about this challenge and looking forward to finding more ways to operate as a planet-friendly business.