Carbon Neutral Small Business – Promotion Products Australia

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What is a Carbon Neutral Business?

August 2011

We are in the process of updating this webpage. We have been told that government legislation has changed how businesses can claim to be a 'Carbon Neutral Business', the webpage below is several years old and was current and correct at time of publishing. We are in the process of researching the subject further and as such advise any reader 'we make no claim real or implied that Promotion Products is a Carbon Neutral Business'. There we go the lawyers should be happy now.

(read this article and we will plant a tree for you – see footer of article*)

MAY 08 - We became a Carbon Neutral Business in July 2007. Now almost one year later we have found it to be a change that has helped make our business more efficient. Below is the original article we wrote last year. At the bottom of the page you can see by what amount we reduced our Carbon Footprint in 2007.

Very few people now believe that man’s carbon producing activities do not have an effect on the wider environment.  It is difficult to prove a direct link between man’s production of carbon and climate change, however we at Promotion Products believe the evidence suggests that we need to take greater care of the environment than we do now.  We started researching being a Carbon Neutral Small Business in March 2007 – it has been an absolute revelation to us – this article is designed to share our experience and observations with you.

Carbon Footprint Calculator for small business

We have tried to set this article out as logically as possible:-

I implore you to read this article and share it with others of a similar mind.

Douglas Gregory
Promotion Products

Global Climate Change and Small Businesses - September 2007

Over the last few months we have witnessed the growing acceptance of our Government in Australia that climate change is a reality and that the production of greenhouse gases (mainly carbon) is driving these changes.  Greenhouse gasses are produced by the production of energy – burning petrol, using electricity that comes from a coal fired power station and so on. 

Many of us have suspected for a few years that pumping vast quantities of carbon into the atmosphere is not sustainable and that we in the West need to show leadership in tackling high carbon emissions. It is difficult for us in our comfortable lifestyles to face that we may need to change our ways slightly!

It could be easy for us as individuals or as small business people to feel useless in the face of this seemingly large problem.  Promotion Products is a small Brisbane based business with 2 ½ employees and a small 7 figure turnover.  Our business and we personally are partly responsible for the carbon problem by our consumption of goods and services.

The issue of climate change and the associated production of carbon have gone from being  ‘green issues’ a year or two back to being mainstream issues that most people understand and understand that we need to act on soon.

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What is a Carbon Neutral Business?

Carbon Neutral and Carbon Footprints (the sum of the Carbon you produce directly and indirectly) have become big news lately.  Being Carbon Neutral, wither we are talking about you personally, your household or your business is actually a fairly straightforward process.  At Promotion Products we could find very little information specifically aimed at small businesses who wanted to become carbon neutral, so we developed our own plan which you are welcome to use.  This plan/guide is not sophisticated - it is designed to push us in the right direction. There are three very simple steps 1/ measure our Small Business Carbon Footprint 2/ reduce our Carbon Footprint, 3/ offset our remaining Carbon Footprint.

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Measuring your Carbon Footprint

Most activities we undertake in our working lives produce carbon and contribute to our Carbon Footprint.  Travelling to work, switching on heating or air conditioning, making a coffee, switching on a computer, travelling to see a client, sending a product sample – all of these things produce carbon – collectively these are known as our Carbon Footprint (the sum of all the carbon our small business produces). It should be noted that we are making our office and our business processes Carbon Neutral, we have a plan which we are going to implement over time to make our products Carbon Neutral.
A small business can measure it’s Carbon Footprint with a ‘Carbon Audit’. We need to know what activities produce carbon and how much they produce.   Any small business can easily measure how much carbon it produces, here’s the Carbon Audit breakdown for Promotion Products in 2006:-

Travelling to work and client visits – 57 150km (producing 14.4 tonnes of carbon)
Air travel – 28 000 km (9.52 tonnes)
Office electricity energy use – 5610 kwh (6.51 tonnes)
Office waste (0.92 tonnes)
Total carbon from these activities 31.35 tonnes

So how do you measure your carbon output?  - easily! - visit the calculator page to see what your small business carbon footprint is.

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Reduce your Carbon Footprint

Our initial concern about reducing our carbon Footprint was that it would impact negatively on how productive our business is.  This is a concern that most business people would share.  However we have found that looking at ways to reduce our carbon Footprint has some very positive effects on our business.

Ways that Promotion Products has reduced it’s Carbon Footprint

Reduce Unnecessary Vehicle Travel
Travelling to work, to clients and to suppliers produced the most amount of carbon for us in 2006.  We found that we could reduce travel by conducting more of our business across the internet.  Instead of visiting a client we found that emailing them information and having a telephone meeting would often achieve the same result.   Secondly we realised that we would traditionally check stock at our warehouse, then deliver it to one of our decoration shops, have it decorated with a client logo or message, have it sent back to us and then dispatch it to the client.  Not anymore. We have negotiated special arrangements with our decorators that they now receive stock direct from the warehouse, they check the stock, decorate it and direct dispatch this to clients.

Carrying out more web transactions and having a new production procedure have both cut our Carbon Footprint and had the secondary effect of making us a more efficient business. It is not possible for all businesses to do this, the point is we looked at our procedures and saw that we could improve how we do business whilst producing less carbon.

Reduce Unnecessary Air Travel
Travelling interstate to see clients and suppliers and going to Asia on sourcing trips are very obviously activities that produce carbon!

We completely understand that drastically reducing such travel is not an option for many businesses.  However we would suggest that many businesses can reduce this amount of travel.  As mentioned above, web based transactions have reduced the amount of travel we do interstate.  Secondly we decided to see Asian suppliers once every two years instead of every year and have asked our Australian based suppliers to visit us instead when they are in Brisbane seeing their other clients.  Again we have found that this small change has made us a more efficient business.

Reduce Office Electricity
In our office we use electricity to power our computers, lighting and air conditioning.  We can’t not have our computers on, we need light to see what we are doing and we need our office to be cool in summer and warm in winter!  If we cannot do without these things we decided to regulate how they are used.   The new rules are:- computers, printers, monitors and lights are switched off every night.  Air conditioning only goes on after 10 am and is switched off ½ an hour before we leave –our aim is to use 15% less power in 2007 than 2006.  We can all make small changes in the way we run our office, if everyone in Australia did the same the savings would be massive.

Reduce Office Waste
Most of the things we consume in running our office produce carbon – paper, printer cartridges, packaging, brochures, general rubbish etc.    Very quickly we found that we could:- use recycled paper and ink cartridges (for a small amount more), say no to excessive amounts of brochures from suppliers, not print every document and store our records electronically.  We have found that actively reducing our office waste has produced efficiencies that we did not expect.

By making the changes above we will be reducing the amount of Carbon that our business produces in 2007.

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Offsetting your Carbon Footprint
After calculating our 2006 Carbon Footprint (visit Carbon Calculator page) and looking at ways to reduce our 2007 Carbon Footprint we needed to offset the carbon we had produced in 2006.  The most straightforward way to offset the carbon you create is to buy trees, when a tree is planted and starts to grow it absorbs carbon therefore neutralising the effect that the carbon could have on the atmosphere. 

Several charities and companies offer a tree planting service – simply visit Google type in ‘Carbon Neutral’ and you will see a whole selection of tree planters.  These various organisations charge differing amounts to offset one ton of carbon. We have found US based project charging as little as $5 to offset one ton.  We have chosen a local Australian based organisation who cost almost triple this amount to offset with.  There are three main reasons for using this local scheme - planting in Australia will provide local jobs and help our local environment and the schemes they run are fully audited.

Check them out here:-

Offsetting your Carbon Footprint through your electricity provider
Many electricity companies offer ‘green’ electricity now.  This is electricity that has been produced using renewable resources like wind and solar, using ‘green’ electricity is a little more expensive but will cut your carbon footprint. We use Origin Energy who have some good green electricity ‘products’ >>>

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How much does Carbon Neutral Cost?

Promotion Products produced a little more than 31 tonnes of Carbon in 2006.  Offsetting this cost just over $13 per tonne. At a touch over $400 becoming a Carbon Neutral Small Business has added less than ½ of 1% to our operating costs.  However what these figures do not tell us is how much we will save in 2007 by reducing our Carbon Footprint.  We will save money by travelling less, we will save by using the web more, we will save by having more efficient businesses practices, we will save because we are using less electricity.  Our Green Energy costs a little more and recycled paper costs marginally more.  On balance it is my belief (only our 2007 Carbon Audit will tell) that becoming a Carbon Neutral business (for us) is going to add $1000’s to our bottom line.

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Future Steps

We found it a little confusing when initially researching becoming a Carbon Neutral business.  We found it difficult to work out what exactly the term meant – does it relate just to our office?, does it relate to travelling to work?, does it relate to the carbon produced by transporting our goods?, does it relate to the carbon produced in making our products?

We have found that there are two broad categories here:-

  • Business processes.  Every activity that your business engages in to make a sale – this includes travel to and from work, travel to see customers, paper used in the printer and all the other things talked about above.  Making our Business Carbon Neutral relates to this.
  • Products and their transportation.  Most of the things we sell come from Asia - a lot are made of materials like plastic and metals that have environmental impacts.  We quickly realised for us to calculate or audit the carbon footprint of the 10 000+ items we sell was not going to be realistic in a short time period.

We have a three step plan;-

  1. Make our Business Carbon Neutral – which we have done and as you can see is relatively easy and inexpensive to do.
  2. Make the freight on our Products Carbon Neutral – this is our next step.  We are developing a calculator so that we can offer clients the opportunity to neutralise the carbon produced by freighting their product from the factory. We will be offering this service by January 2008.
  3. Starting to audit our product’s Carbon Footprint – we hope to have broadly categorised many of these by January 2008.

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Want a Tree for Free?

The purpose of this webpage was to share with clients and future clients our thoughts on this important issue. We thank you for taking the time to read this, we would very much like to hear your thoughts on the Carbon Neutral issue and or share this article with another business person you know.

This is an honour scheme,  simply:-

Click here to leave your feedback, we will then plant a tree for you, for free.

Click here to share this article with an interested business associate

We have limited this to the first 1000 people who respond.

Thanks again for reading.
Douglas Gregory
Promotion Products

click here for Environmentally Friendy Promotional Products

Comparison of our 2006 and 2007 Carbon Footprint

Carbon Audit breakdown for Promotion Products in 2006:-
Travelling to work and client visits – 57 150km (producing 14.4 tonnes of carbon)
Air travel – 28 000 km (9.52 tonnes)
Office electricity energy use – 5610 kwh (6.51 tonnes)
Office waste (0.92 tonnes)

Total carbon from these activities 31.35 tonnes

Carbon Audit breakdown for Promotion Products in 2007:-
Travelling to work and client visits – 20 500 (producing 5.23 tonnes of carbon)
We have changed our business to be far more reliant on the internet to market our products.  We have also moved our office to the same locality as where we live.
Air travel – 6 000 km (2.1 tonnes)
No more sourcing trips to Hong Kong, 1 trip to Melbourne, 1 to Sydney only.
Office electricity energy use – 4454 kwh of which 1695 was 100% offset by electricity company (3.08 tonnes)
Office waste (0.8 tonnes)

Total carbon from these activities 12.01 tonnes – a reduction to almost 1/3 of the 2006 figure

It must be stressed that we understand such reductions are not possible for all business types.  We are lucky that our business is web-based and that we can make reductions on the scale that we have.

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