In September 2020, Mott MacDonald achieved our aim of becoming carbon neutral. We are the first major company in our sector to achieve this crucial milestone.
Carbon neutral means that we have reduced our carbon dioxide emissions from our operations as much as possible and we removed residual carbon dioxide emissions from the atmosphere by using credible internationally recognized projects.
We had been actively reducing our carbon emissions for much of the last 10 years, and had made great progress. But in 2019, several factors caused us to step up our efforts. Companies in other industries had become carbon neutral — or were well on their way.
Here is a summary of our path to becoming carbon neutral. We hope our experience and suggestions will inspire others to make the same journey.
Defining our carbon baseline
Our journey began with the mammoth task of calculating our global carbon footprint, and seeking external verification of our figures. Our global carbon footprint for 2019 was 30,019 metric tons of CO₂ equivalent.
Calculating this figure was hugely complicated. We have 180 offices around the world, and gathering accurate data was the crucial first step. Through an initiative led by Mike Haigh, our Executive Chairman, we created an app and sent it to office managers to help them collect the necessary carbon emissions data on a fast track. We formed a Carbon Task Force in North America to ensure coordination of the office energy data being collected (we attained 100% participation), and to examine a number of practices that we might address in order to reduce our carbon footprint.
In addition to office energy usage, we examined business travel. This was easier said than done, as in 2019 we employed 33 travel agencies worldwide, and our booking systems had not been set up with carbon calculations in mind. Our team had to look intelligently at the data to ensure that there had been no oversights and that the numbers were accurate.
To verify our conclusions, we enlisted the Carbon Trust, which went over our methodology, examined all our spreadsheets, and verified our calculations.
Driving down our carbon footprint
Our original plan was to become carbon neutral in 2022, but Mike Haigh challenged us to make it happen in 2020. We knew that a demanding goal would spur teamwork and innovation.
To start with, we looked at how we could decarbonize the energy supplies to our offices. In North America, Asia Pacific, the Middle East, and South Asia we looked at switching energy supplies and becoming more energy-efficient. In Europe, which accounts for more than 50% of our carbon emissions from energy and over 60% of our emissions from transportation, we worked closely with our landlords. The vast majority have moved to renewable energy supplies.
The biggest share of travel-related emissions came from flying. We now favor low-carbon airlines or those that offer carbon offsets. Collaborative platforms and conferencing technology help us avoid unnecessary travel. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown how seamlessly we can work online. We hope this will herald another step-change in cutting corporate travel.
Our North American business included a lot of road travel, most of it associated with our field services. The Carbon Task Force developed a policy requiring new fleet cars and rentals to be hybrid, and we will eventually be move to electric vehicles when their availability and utility is more widespread. The policy was quickly adopted and initiated by senior management. In both North America and the UK, we worked with our providers for preferential rates on hybrid and electric vehicles.
From the beginning, we used a Power BI dashboard to share details of our carbon footprint with our employees. This allowed them to drill into the data and make suggestions on how to cut our emissions. For example, crowdsourced ideas include taking a vegan-first approach to catering for meetings and events.
Although we favor carbon reduction over carbon offsetting, to become carbon neutral we had to invest in removing CO2 from the air. We wanted a carbon offset project that would be sustainable, aligned with our values, and beneficial to the local economy and ecosystem. Ideally, we wanted a project we were involved in.
In Indonesia, an ongoing project has helped 10,000 palm oil farmers increase their yields while reversing damage near Berbak National Park, an ecologically vital oasis of peat swamp forest. We helped find funding to restore peatland, which releases huge amounts of carbon when burned or eroded. The offset credits we bought will finance the creation of new peatland with a storage capacity equivalent to 31,000 metric tons of carbon.
To prevent the global rise in temperatures from exceeding 1.5°C, the Science-Based Targets initiative aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2050 in mature economies and by 2070 worldwide. Our pathway to carbon neutrality and onwards to net-zero has been approved by the initiative, which is a collaboration between the carbon disclosure organization CDP, the United Nations Global Compact, the World Resources Institute, and the World Wide Fund for Nature. For Mott MacDonald, “net-zero” means that we remove as many greenhouse gases from the atmosphere as we put into it from our operations and wider activities without using commercial offsetting projects to remove residual greenhouse gases emissions.
The importance of accreditation
Independent accreditation assured us that our approach and methods were best in class, and enabled us to say we have truly done what we claim.
The first standard to meet was ISO 14064, the international standard for carbon reporting. This assures that our carbon footprint has been correctly calculated. Verification of our offsets showed we had also met the standard for carbon neutrality, PAS 2060.
In addition to being carbon neutral, we are globally certified to PAS 2080, the international standard for managing carbon in infrastructure. Applying the principles and methods of PAS 2080 to our clients’ projects and infrastructure operation can contribute substantially to their emissions reductions.
Six tips for achieving carbon neutrality in your organization
Seek accreditation. Certification from external bodies will bolster your credibility within the industry, and can also provide guidance toward meeting your carbon neutral goals.
Make the most of technology. Use dashboards and data-based solutions to find out where the carbon is. Use technological solutions where possible to mitigate it.
Seek leadership from the top. Embedding large-scale change is only successful if there is buy-in and visible support from senior leaders.
Share responsibility across the company. Once employees and departments see their carbon footprint, they are empowered and encouraged to find ways to cut it.
Collaborate with other organizations. Ask your suppliers and partners how they can help you reduce your carbon footprint.
Set science-based targets. Make sure your carbon-cutting goals will help reach the global goal of attaining net-zero emissions.
Benefits to the business
Becoming carbon neutral was the right thing for our planet and for people worldwide. But it also has bottom-line benefits for our company.
Colleagues feel pride in working for a company that takes carbon reduction seriously. We hope our commitment will also attract students, graduates, and skilled professionals who view carbon neutrality as important and positive: the kind of people we want working at Mott MacDonald.
It’s important to us that we are consistent in what we say and do. We have a thriving business in carbon management, and it is essential that we have our own house in order. Clients and partners are already talking to us about our carbon neutral journey, and how they may follow suit.
We know that carbon is a proxy for cost, so carbon efficiencies correlate with cost savings. There will also be benefits for those we work with, especially our clients, who need to consider carbon emissions in their supply chain.
Counting down to net-zero
2008. Mott MacDonald first calculates our carbon footprint.
2013. We coauthor the UK government’s Infrastructure Carbon Review, establishing the link between carbon and cost.
2013-2018. We achieve 45% reduction in emissions per employee.
2015. We coauthor PAS 2080, the international standard for managing infrastructure carbon.
2017. We are independently accredited to PAS 2080, globally.
June 2019. We lead the formation of the Net-zero Infrastructure Industry Coalition.
September 2019. We set target to become carbon neutral before the end of 2020.
September 2020. We are independently certified to ISO14064 on our global carbon footprint.
October 2020. Target achieved: We are independently certified as carbon neutral, globally. We are reaccredited to PAS 2060.
2024. Target: Achieve 25% reduction on 2018 global carbon footprint.
2040. Target: Achieve net-zero carbon emissions.
Next steps: From carbon neutral to net-zero
Looking ahead, we want to make the journey from carbon neutral to net-zero by 2040. No doubt we will learn a lot from the suppliers and partners who join us on this journey, while the emissions landscape changes with new regulations, standards, and legislation over the next 20 years.
If you are interested in starting or advancing your journey to carbon neutral or net-zero, talk to us and let’s see how we can work together.