Why we report on carbon and how?

John Caswell

Sustainability Chapion

Short of foraging for nuts and berries and living in a cave, no one can live a 100% carbon neutral life. Everything we do has a carbon footprint from sending an email (4g CO2e) to drinking a latte (340g CO2e – it’s all in the milk!) and as we move ever closer to trying to reach ‘net zero’, it’s important to understand where our biggest impacts are, to help us make the most informed decisions.

With physical retail in a strange state of limbo, it’s important that we take the time to think carefully about how we restart, what we want to do differently and why it’s important. The carbon impact of our everyday lifestyle decisions are becoming clearer. We know flying is bad and that eating red meat has a high carbon footprint, but where on earth do you start with a fit-out project?

Understanding the size, scale and impact of our work is difficult, and it feels like an almost impossible task. Throw that into the mix with the overarching financial pressures of every project, and the whole thing can feel a bit overwhelming. However, away from the glitz and glamor of design awards and fashion trends, an army of like-minded people have been developing tools to help us understand our impacts for years.

The first thing we’ve had to do is measure, measure, measure!

So how are we starting to understand the carbon impact of our work at Double? The first thing we’ve had to do is measure, measure, measure! In the same way that every company measures its finances, everyone is slowly going to have to start measuring carbon in a similar way, and guess what? they’re linked. By far the easiest thing to measure in any company is travel. We travel quite a lot as a company and every time we do, it costs us money. Along with tracking this cost (that we’ve always done) we’ve set up a tool to track its carbon impact. When you submit an expense, you submit the travel type and distance and it works out the carbon alongside it. It’s taken a little practice but after a year it’s second nature and we have some measures (that word again) that we can use to set reduction targets.

But that’s the easy part. How about all those materials we’re using. This has been a different challenge, but resources like the ICE database have enabled us to measure our materials embodied carbon. Given that we already build everything we make virtually, we can take the volume of our materials and convert them into embodied carbon.

Of course this misses out a huge amount of other factors during the full lifecycle of a project, like locality of materials, recycled content, efficient use of materials, minimal processing and waste. That’s why we’ve developed key principles we stick to and are currently in the process of being able to measure and score our projects energy, water, pollution and wellbeing (more on this soon).

As we look to restarting our industry, now is the time to create built environments that are the stepping stones to a sustainable future we all need to make happen.

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