Karen Smith, SAN Director
With the devastating floods in Germany, heat domes in North America and average global temperatures rising faster than they have ever done, the Climate Crisis has never been more prominent in our minds. Add to this the pressures of global and national net zero targets and you’d be forgiven for feeling overwhelmed.
Luckily at the Social Audit Network, we have a long history of helping organisations focus on what matters, providing the frameworks and tools for you to Prove, Improve and Account for the difference you make.
Our recent online gathering brought colleagues from around the world together to share their experiences of accounting for environmental impact.
We want to share some of this learning with you and continue this important conversation by suggesting 10 steps towards accounting for action on the climate crisis, embracing the principles of social accounting and audit.
1. Get Started
It sounds obvious, but sometimes the first step is the hardest! If this is the beginning of your journey then why not start by talking to your staff and other stakeholders. Find out what matters to them and get their ideas for action. Whether its cutting down on waste, reducing energy consumption or planting trees, making changes in one area will catalyse action in others, identify your champions and find the approach that’s right for you.
SAN has a really simple Green Office Checklist which is a great place for you to start within the workplace. https://www.socialauditnetwork.org.uk/san-toolkit
WWF also offer a carbon footprint calculator; a great tool to use to encourage colleagues and other stakeholders to start thinking about the changes they can make in their own lives.
2. Align with your values
When the challenges are so global, it’s easy to think that there is nothing one individual or organisation can do to make a difference, but as Mike Berners-Lee points out in his climate change handbook, There’s No Planet B, we need to see everything as part of a bigger game. What’s needed is systemic change and everyone needs to ask themselves:
“How can I create the conditions under which the world I want to see becomes possible?”
This question is at the heart of many social economy organisations who are driven by their social mission and values, and taking action to tackle climate change is no different.
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals provide a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future. The above ‘wedding cake model’ developed by the Stockholm Resilience Institute presents a holistic view of the SDGs, showing that the prosperity and wellbeing of societies depend on the health of the planet.
Can organisations with a social mission really afford not to take environmental action?
3. Get measuring
There’s an old cliché, ‘What gets measured gets done’ but it really does hold some truth! Regular measurement and reporting keeps you focused and gives you the information you need to make decisions.
This doesn’t need to be about measuring everything. Choose some key indicators and track them over time. Share the results with your staff so they can see the results of their efforts.
Reporting on environmental impact is growing in importance and if you are an organisation bidding for public sector work, you can expect to be asked about your environmental performance.
When bidding for work, remember to not only include your initial/ baseline measurement, but also to talk about what you changed and then how that led to a reduction in energy/ carbon. For example, you installed a water meter to measure your consumption, you discussed ideas with colleagues of how you could save water (catching and reusing rainwater, swapping to a low flush toilet, checking pipes for leaks), you put some of these measures in place, and your consumption has now reduced by x%.
As importance as measuring is, there is little point in measuring something if you don’t do something differently as a result.
4. Make the most of existing tools
Whilst the most accurate results will likely come from investing in an Environmental Management System and/or an environmental consultant, there are some fantastic online resources out there to help you account for your environmental action. One of SAN’s favourites is Emission Possible, a set of resources from WWF - https://www.wwf.org.uk/emission-possible
A well as a more comprehensive toolkit there is this simple step by step guide to emission reporting.
We also like the One Planet Living framework from Bioregional - https://www.bioregional.com/one-planet-living which helps you work towards an action plan for your organisation.
There are manuals and toolkits for a variety of different types of organisations that give you everything you need to create your action plan, including how to monitor and report on your impact.