How Big Is Your Carbon Footprint?

If we care about the future and the type of world our children and grandchildren are going to be living in, then the how big is our carbon footprint question is one we should all be asking ourselves.

I was in a conversation last week with someone and the subject cropped up.  The person I was speaking to said there was no point in us doing anything. He said that because of the wealthy people with their enormous carbon footprints, running huge private yachts, flying private jet planes, or blasting off into space for no other purpose other than boosting their own personal ego! He may have a point, but I know that my clients are not prepared to accept this defeatist attitude (this conversation was not with a client). 

Power to the People

When I went to Aston University in 1968 someone had daubed ‘Power to the People’ in huge letters on one of the main walls which greeted me every day and regardless of the context, the words stuck with me.  We all have the power to do something! I am a strong believer that if we all do our little bit then cumulatively, this can make a huge difference.

A Paperless Office

I am constantly trying to improve my own personal carbon footprint and that of my business’. I attended a webinar with Tessa Lee last month (and you can read her article on City Wire Can going digital help us to get to net zero). In her webinar, she talked about the advantages of the paperless office, and I raised a smile because Interface Financial Planning became a paperless office back in 2006, and for the last 15 years all of our documents have been hosted in the Cloud where clients can view them via their personal secure portal, 24/7.

In 2006, no one was talking about ‘carbon footprint’ and we went paperless because we were overflowing with paper files and wanted to regain space, thus improve business efficiency. What Tessa went on to say added force to our decision to go paperless and I quote some of her words:

“The most obvious and tangible thing we can all do to reduce our carbon footprint is to go paperless. According to research by The World Counts, 50% of business waste is composed of paper.

Think about all the paperwork that is exchanged between advisers, clients and providers? Financial advice is jam-packed with suitability reports, statements, illustrations and reports. If you are sending out 20 pieces of correspondence a year, including letters, multi-page glossy reports, brochures or newsletters to 100 clients you might be generating a footprint in the region of 2.35 tonnes of CO2. That’s nearly half of your target five-tonne lifestyle!

Sharing all of these documents online can seriously reduce your carbon footprint. Going paperless does mean changing the habits of your clients as well as your team. It requires a shift in people’s mindsets to reduce the amount of printing that we all do, so that digital copies do not simply become a complement to hard copies.

The added benefit of going paperless is that it reduces your costs, leads to more efficient business processes and makes it easier for your clients to do business with you.”

You will have spotted that she said ‘changing the habits of your clients’ and I am grateful to our clients for coming on this journey with us, allowing this to happen. We no longer use our franking machine to send communications to clients, and they have all come on a digital journey with us.

Reviewing our incoming post log, the main offenders seem to be government departments such as HMRC and The Office of the Public Guardian and a few Financial Services providers who seem to be stuck with last century technology. I often wonder how the latter stay in business. Naming a few: Aviva, Scottish Provident, and irritatingly our own business bank Santander who send paper copies of information that we already obtain online because in their words: “They do not have the capability to turn off paper post.” – Grrr!

Business and personal paper receipts have been reduced to the minimum but despite our best efforts we still have to scan and shred over 700 pieces of post every year, and that is after a concerted and determined effort. So, I wonder how much post those non-paperless businesses receive? I dread to think.

Virtual Meetings

Another area where we have reduced our carbon footprint is our move to online meetings. We have offered remote meetings to clients since 2012 but it was the first lockdown in March 2020 that stimulated the big revolution. It has been uplifting to see how easily clients have adapted and they now book Zoom meetings as a matter of course. They no longer need to travel to our office for a meeting, so they are reducing their own carbon footprints. They love the fact that we can be more flexible about meeting times, and they can simply look in our online diary and choose their own time. The Zoom meeting is automatically digitally transcribed and stored against the client’s file where everyone relevant can see what was discussed.

Sustainable Funds

We recently recommended that all of our clients invest in portfolios of sustainable funds, and we were quite uplifted with their enthusiastic response. I discovered that many of them are well ahead of us, one client responded that he was installing a heat pump, several clients mentioned solar panels, others talked about reducing or eliminating meat from their diets. In my own home, we gave up eating red meat over 25 years ago, and I can see that I am going to ask my forward-thinking clients for advice about solar panels and heat pumps. We are going to get quite an exchange going!

EV Charging Points

For my part, we have arranged to get an EV (electric vehicle) charging point fitted next week. This is a bit of a chicken and egg dilemma – I am intending on buying an electric car next year, but I will need somewhere to charge it when I get it. Fitting the charging point first seems to be the logical place to start. Did you know that you can get a £350 grant from the government towards the cost of fitting? However, you have to be quick because the government in its wisdom has decided to stop this incentive with effect from March next year. We will be ready for clients and business visitors who arrive with their electric vehicles.  They will be able to plug in and charge during our meeting.

What’s Your Carbon Footprint?

If you Google ‘How do I calculate my carbon footprint’ you will find several great places to help you including the WWF, The Nature Conservancy and The Global Footprint Network. I have registered for a free account with The Carbon Footprint because I liked the fact that they provide a personal and a business alternative. 

Why not take a look and see where you are with your own carbon footprint? I suggest that you start with the WWF calculator because it takes just five minutes to complete when you answer questions under four main categories: food, home, travel and other stuff. The UK average is 13.56 tonnes of carbon per annum and the world average is 5.28 tonnes – where do you sit on this scale? I would love to hear from you and perhaps we can get a dialogue going on how we can help each other reduce our carbon footprint.

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