This week, billionaire Richard Branson announced that his Virgin Galactic space flights will have the lowest carbon emission possible. He informed journalists in Singapore that his company has reduced the environmental cost of an individual going into space from around two weeks of the electricity needed to power New York, to less than the carbon footprint of an economy round-trip from London to Singapore.
Branson admitted that his space travel program has been based on using new technology to ‘dramatically reduce’ the carbon emissions of the SpaceShipTwo (SS2), Virgin’s rocket-powered craft. Amongst many other environmentally-focused features, the SS2 has been engineered from lightweight carbon-fibre to minimise fuel burn – usually the most criticised aspect of space travel as carbon emission has previously been gargantuan. Some estimates put the average amount of carbon produced per launch at around 672 tons.
If Branson can give even space travel an eco-friendly slant, any business, regardless of what it produces, should be able to operate without damaging the environment. Reducing carbon emissions is no longer just a corporate box-ticking exercise with the aim of enhancing brand reputation. Becoming more environmentally conscious is also financially beneficial as you are producing less waste and generally streamlining your organisation.
Whether or not you believe the scientific consensus that human pollution is worsening climate change, reducing your carbon emission is a sound business decision. There are many ways to go about this, including the ISO 14001 certification which involves full outside assessment of your company and implementation of an easy-to-follow, personalised framework to help you on your way to environmental sustainability.
Some companies are not satisfied with being eco-friendly and set the bar higher, striving for complete carbon neutrality. Many household names such as Microsoft, Marks & Spencer and PepsiCo have declared themselves carbon neutral. Again, Richard Branson is ahead of the curve. In 2009, he founded the Carbon War Room, a network of entrepreneurs dedicated to creating a low carbon economy. Inspired by the Churchill War Rooms, Branson believes the threat of carbon emissions on the world is worse than World War One and Two combined.
The Carbon War Room focuses on providing capital to sustainable environmental solutions and is founded on the belief that most businesses can profitably cut 50% of their greenhouse gas emissions using current technologies.
Cutting your carbon output at work can be simple, and there are many obvious solutions to minimise waste which businesses often do not implement. Turning off computers at night instead of leaving them on sleep mode, for example, saves around 40-watts per day which adds up to around £10 a year. If you are a large business, this simple change could save you thousands.
Take inspiration from Branson’s Virgin Galactic space program and see where you can make a change to cut your carbon emissions. You’ll be running a much greener business, and also probably save yourself a surprising amount on your fuel bills, just like Branson’s SS2.