We are proud to announce that we have been awarded a Carbon Neutral Plus certification after a rigorous professional carbon emissions assessment of our studio activities.
This is a key milestone in our commitment to climate action and advancing sustainability in everything we do – from pushing the environmental boundaries of our buildings to taking action to reduce the harmful carbon emissions of our daily activities as a practice.
As a certified Carbon Neutral Plus organisation, we will be undergoing a comprehensive carbon footprint assessment each year and have committed to consistently reduce our emissions as an organisation in the long term, aligned with the Science Based Target initiative and the Paris Agreement.
To mark the beginning of our journey and mitigate our emissions, we are supporting two globally recognised and certified offsetting schemes with environmental and social benefits. We are supporting the protection and reforestation in the Great Rift Valley in Kenya and the Amazon rainforest in Brazil, and in the UK we are partnering with Forest Carbon in planting a mixed woodland in the Lake District National Park.
Our Sustainability Manager Golnaz Ighany explains the process, terminology, and important next steps on our Carbon Neutral Plus journey:
What does being a Carbon Neutral Plus studio mean?
This means that we have calculated and transparently reported all direct and indirect carbon emissions related to our practice activities for the past financial year 2018/2019. ‘Plus’ neutrality means we have gone a step further to offset more than what we emitted by supporting carefully chosen certified schemes for planting of native trees, helping disadvantaged communities, and providing wildlife habitats.
Why is this certification important?
Climate change is a challenge which now encompasses everything we do as architects, and as a society as a whole.
The certification is part of our ongoing journey to accelerate climate action. It is about playing our part in tackling climate change in order to meet the demands of the UN Paris Agreement. The Paris Agreement highlights that if the temperature rise can be held to below 1.5⁰ C, then the irreversible effects of climate change can be avoided. Temperature rises above this level pose major and irreversible changes to our environment and biodiversity.
What did the Carbon Neutral Plus assessment process involve?
We undertook a very rigorous assessment with the assistance of an independent organisation Carbon Footprint. It took us a few months from data collection, to calculation and final report findings.
A team within Stanton Williams was involved in gathering all the data, including our full upstream and downstream business footprint for the past financial year, as well as our complete ‘Scope 3 emissions’. These are the indirect emissions from activities that occur at sources outside of our control such as transport, paper supplies, waste collection. Defining and identifying Scope 3 emissions is challenging, and often many organisations exclude full reporting. However, it was essential for us to have a complete picture and to address our full carbon footprint.
What were some of the key findings and the immediate next steps?
Our Carbon Footprint Assessment showed that our colleagues are environmentally conscious people. For instance, 97% of our team cycled, walked or took public transport to work, before the lockdown.
The rigorous measurement of our emissions showed that our total office carbon footprint is 79.3 tCO2e. We decided to dedicate a voluntary carbon budget and mitigate the amount of our emissions, and beyond, by supporting two carefully chosen offsetting projects.
We consulted everyone in the practice via a studio wide presentation and poll to select together ethical and recognised international offset schemes, with environmental and social benefits. As a result, we are now supporting tree planting in Kenya and the protection of the Amazon Rainforest through projects from Verified Carbon Standard (VCS). In addition, in partnership with Forest Carbon Ltd, we are endorsing a UK woodland for carbon capture project, accredited under the Woodland Carbon Code.
What are the longer-term goals?
We are at the beginning of this journey and we acknowledge that the best way to tackle climate change is to reduce our emissions by direct action.
The most important action we took was to identify reduction measurement opportunities and set a long term reduction target by using the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi). Some of the actions we have been discussing internally include changing our energy supplier, reducing our overall energy consumption, reviewing our waste management, banning single use plastic in the office, continuing to improve our travel policy.
What is the Science Based Targets initiative?
The Science Based Targets initiative is a joint initiative launched in 2015 by CDP, the UN Global Compact, the World Resources Institute and WWF. Science-based targets provide a clearly defined pathway for companies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, helping to prevent the worst impacts of climate change and future-proof business growth. Targets are considered ‘science-based’ if they are in line with what the latest climate science deems necessary to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement – limiting global warming to well-below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit warming to 1.5°C.
We are very pleased to announce that we are on the right track and our science based targets, aligned with the pathway of keeping the global temperature raising below 1.5°C, have been approved.