Carbon neutrality: NDL’s eco journey

Environmental consciousness has always been a core element of NDL, and we recently became a carbon-neutral organisation around the time we published our Carbon Reduction Plan (CRP). In this edition of Opinion, NDL’s Finance Director (and environmental ambassador) Nicola Lister discusses NDL’s eco journey – and how other SMEs and public sector organisations can jump aboard too. 

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What inspired you to champion NDL’s environmental journey? 

I’ve always been passionate about the environment, but when my daughter attended climate school strikes in March 2019, and more recently when I played a small part in helping a close friend become our local Green Party councillor, I was really inspired to take action myself. I joined the Boston Spa, Wetherby & Villages Community Green Group as a secretary when it was founded. We’re involved in several green initiatives, with the aim of getting the community involved in environmental discussions and activities.  

We’re currently focused on a number of initiatives – we’ve fixed over 400 bikes and donated them to a number of Leeds charities, we’re running ‘Bug Hotel’ workshops to get people inspired about preserving and conserving pollinators, we’re creating (and teaching others how to create) dead hedges to promote nesting habitats, we’re campaigning to achieve the official ‘Plastic Free’ status for Boston Spa. We engage the community through various events and often speak at schools and children’s groups (like Scouts) to inspire young people and get them thinking about the environment. Naturally, I wanted to bring this inspiration to NDL.  

What environmental initiatives have you introduced at NDL? 

To align ourselves with our public sector community, we introduced a CRP. This involved plenty of research, tricky surveying of our carbon footprint and questionnaires for our remote workers. We assessed our energy usage, mileage, waste and more. It was a lengthy process but allowed us to create a realistic view of our environmental impact – and therefore the things we could do to offset it. It was the key to becoming carbon neutral.  

We introduced several policies in our drive to achieve a carbon neutral status. We were already covering the more obvious bases – ensuring lights and heating were used efficiently, allowing our teams to work from home and using energy from green and renewable sources. To further reduce our carbon footprint where unavoidable mileage was concerned, we introduced a Cycle to Work scheme that allows the team to access interest-free loans for bicycles. This allows those closer to the office or meeting locations to use a green method of transportation. We also introduced an electric vehicle salary sacrifice scheme, making it easier for those working further afield to reduce their carbon footprint on the road.  

The final hurdle was what to do about the necessary energy usage we simply couldn’t reduce. To tackle that, we turned to offsetting. We have planted 200 trees on land local to our Head Office, and we worked with Make it Wild, a local organisation, to offset a further 10 tonnes of carbon. It was important for us to support our local community, and this is why we chose to plant trees in the local area. We have planted species that are suitable for the local area and should thrive for the long term. Three months after planting, 90% of these saplings are already thriving – and we’ve been able to ensure that the undergrowth and other plants complement the planted trees to reduce the chance of any potential harm to the young trees as they grow. We’re close by, so any saplings that aren’t doing well can be easily replaced.  

We decided to go with this method of offsetting as it benefits our local environment. They attract pollinators, improve air quality and can help to manage flooding as temperatures continue to change. It’s also a long-term eco investment. As the trees mature, the carbon they offset will continue to grow.  

How does NDL help the public sector reach its carbon goals? 

The government’s Net Zero Strategy outlines plans to become fully carbon neutral by 2050 across the board, and our public sector community is really ramping up its environmental consciousness. NDL puts social good at the very forefront of its activities. Our products are designed to benefit the public and public sector workers through the streamlining of historically convoluted processes. We are not just about improving lives through faster access to stronger public services. We try to encompass wider social issues in our remit – and climate change is no exception.  

Our products are invaluable tools in reducing carbon emissions. We use digital transformation to eradicate paper-based processes, with many organisations in our community now saving millions of sheets of paper every year. We eliminate rekeying, saving thousands of needless miles travelled by field workers who were previously required to return to base to re-enter captured information into back-office systems. We enable electronic and online communications, saving emissions on postage and delivery.  

NDL helps organisations achieve these eco-focused benefits through careful scoping and planning. We work closely with public sector teams to identify both administrative and environmental pain points and collaborate to develop more environmentally friendly solutions. While citizen experience is at the forefront of most projects, Net Zero 2050 is another huge focus in the public sector when it comes to digital transformation. 

What advice do you have for other SMEs on carbon reduction journeys? 

If you don’t already have one, do a CRP. They might seem a little daunting at first, but there are plenty of templates readily available online to help get the ball rolling. Take a good look at your working practices and really hunt around for those processes that are resource-heavy – then come up with greener solutions. Google is your friend! There are plenty of failsafe practices and processes you can implement, and lots of inspiration to get you thinking about how to cut down on energy usage, unnecessary travel and waste.  

Talking to your team and encouraging suggestions is incredibly important. Those doing the work will have the best insights. They can shed light on which changes and swaps would be advantageous, and what wouldn’t be possible. Make sure you communicate your initiatives and any changes in a way that make sense – and make it relatable. Don’t just focus on environmental practices at work. Let people know how they can save carbon in their personal lives too! Many environmentally conscious practices come with plenty of benefits like financial and resource savings. Garnering a more eco-conscious consensus will breed better ideas.  

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Interested in using Evolve to reduce carbon emissions at your public sector organisation? Don’t hesitate to get in touch with the team – or take a look at our library of public sector use cases for more inspiration.