Becoming carbon zero certified is just the beginning

Sarah Williams | Innovation & Improvement Lead, Simply Energy | January 2022

At the end of last year when we got the news, we’d become Toitū carbonzero certified business, I can’t deny it was a good feeling. But, as much as it signalled the end of several months’ gathering and analysing data, I knew it was only the beginning. Staying certified means setting targets, actively working to reduce emissions and offsetting those you can’t avoid. The good news is getting started is easier than you might think. Here’s how we went about it and what it means to us.

How it all started

Our journey to certification started around 6 months ago because we wanted to understand our own carbon footprint. We needed to put a stick in the sand so we could work towards reducing our emissions in a sustainable way.

We were also curious to see what was involved, so that we could share our experiences, help others with the process, and demonstrate what’s possible with a little focus.

What it means to be carbon neutral and a zero-carbon certified business

If you were wondering what it means to be carbon neutral, it involves removing as much CO2 from the atmosphere as you produce. We’re aiming to reduce our emissions and only offset what we can’t avoid, which are things like essential travel to customer sites and the electricity we use to power our offices.

At 56.64t CO2e (from July 2020 to June 2021) our carbon footprint was relatively small, but even so, many small footprints add up and every little bit we do to reduce emissions counts.

Being a Toitū carbonzero certified business means we’re ‘officially’ recognised as accurately measuring and taking action to reduce our carbon footprint. It signals that we’ve met (and will continue to meet through annual, independent verification) the requirements of the Toitū carbonzero programme in line with ISO 14064-1, the international standard for carbon measurement and reporting for organisations.  

What it means to us

The process highlighted that zero-carbon certification is all about understanding our footprint and making a meaningful commitment to reduce this . For us, it isn’t about getting a badge of honour or using it to suggest we’re squeaky clean. Far from it.

We know the electricity we supply has its own carbon footprint, and that together with our parent company Contact we have a responsibility to reduce emissions from electricity generation. Contact’s been measuring its impact and setting reduction target’s  that align with the Science Based Targets initiative for a few years. Like us, Contact has several initiatives underway, including investing in significant new renewable generation and reviewing (and ultimately retiring) its thermal generation – all designed to ensure it keeps within the target set by the 2015 Paris Agreement of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees, based on pre-industrial levels.

Looking forward

Focusing on our operational emissions has shown us that there’s lots we can do to reduce our emissions.

We’ve set a target to reduce our gross emissions by 20% by 2025 and 40% by 2030 from a 20/21 base year that aligns with the 2015 Paris Agreement.

We offset our 20/21 baseline emissions by 125% through verified carbon credits which include a combination of New Zealand native forestry and global renewable energy projects. The extra offsets have been used to help accelerate the wider transition to a zero-carbon future.

We’ve put in place reduction initiatives including transitioning our vehicle fleet to electric by 2023, reducing our office energy consumption with smart control and efficiency solutions, implementing a travel policy around flights, reducing office waste, and looking for ways to better measure and reduce our emissions from working at home.

I’m super thankful to everyone at Simply, Toitū Envirocare, and our supply chain partners who’ve stepped up to help and make it a much easier process that we’d originally thought. I’ve had a few people ask me what’s involved and if I’ve got any tips, so have been working on pulling something together. Drop me an email if you’d like a copy or follow us on LinkedIn for a link to it.