Grundon: Reducing emissions is what counts, not reporting them


Carbon emissions

Neil Grundon, Chairman of Grundon Waste Management, explains why he thinks real-world results are what counts when it comes to carbon emissions.

My esteemed colleague Stephen Roscoe put metaphorical pen to paper recently for Circular Online, outlining the challenges the waste sector faces around the possible mandatory disclosure of Scope 3 emissions.

His comments drew attention to the fact that accurately accounting for Scope 3 is very difficult and the quality of the data is likely to include an element of uncertainty and discretion.

As Stephen wrote, responsible businesses risk being disadvantaged if compared to businesses which take a more “flexible” approach to reporting – something we increasingly come up against.

For instance, we have seen recent examples of organisations specifying to Grundon that our baseline for calculating Scope 1 and 2 emission reductions must be from 2022 onwards. 

This is nonsense, as it actively discriminates against businesses like us that have been measuring carbon emissions for years and made more significant reductions than many of the other businesses on the same tender list.

Indeed, we first began measuring greenhouse gas emissions way back in 2000, establishing metrics and setting reduction targets which have delivered year after year of carbon savings.

Not surprisingly, by the time we arrived at 2022 v 2023, the percentage of our carbon savings will have decreased because we’ve done the bulk of the hard work.

That’s not to say we’re not pressing forward in the battle against climate change – we will never stop doing that – but we’re effectively being disadvantaged for all the good we’ve done in the past because it simply doesn’t count in the new marketplace metrics.

As we move towards the challenges of Scope 3 emissions reporting, it will inevitably be even more difficult to pin down tangible results.

So let’s take a lighthearted look at how it might work for businesses keen to “do the right thing”.

What is the right thing to do?

Circular economy

Given that waste will make up an increasingly large percentage of Scope 3 emissions, companies could engage the services of Hector Moonbeam Starbolt Stuntley’s Waste and Recycling and Circular Economy Advisory Services Outsourcing Consultancy Ltd.

These days you only have to put the name of your company at the very bottom of your website, so Hector could simply call his platform “MOONBEAM” and we would be none the wiser.

Hector has a degree in Earth Climate Biomechanics from an online university and spent a year living with the indigenous tribes of Papua New Guinea, before teaming up with like-minded souls to buy an electric van and spend a fortune on a website hosted by a data centre run on manure from rescued dairy cattle.

He owns no trucks, no bins, no Materials Recovery Facilities (MRF) or Energy-from-Waste (EfW) plants, no offices, no service vehicles, no balers…

I think you get the picture, which is fortunate, because when you contract with Hector he is carbon neutral (you can pop that in your sustainability report), and he can save you all the bother of ever having to deal with your actual service provider ever again.

Hector’s house is, in effect, built on sand – of course, that is eco-friendly recycled sand – which washes away when the actual job needs doing.

Speaking as a “real world business” in the waste sector, I know that if we are going to be able to tackle carbon emissions properly, then we all need to give serious thought to topics such as these:

Downstream recycling

Understanding what downstream recycling really means and how it works in practical terms. Farmers like to talk about Farm to Fork to promote the simplicity of the journey from growing plants to the produce ending up on the table – we need a similar approach for the waste industry, one that is built on data and hard facts.

Investment challenges

We need an honest discussion about the challenges that businesses like us face when investing in projects (such as our joint venture EfW plant at Lakeside) which are (initially) carbon intensive, despite being infinitely better than the landfills they are replacing.

Such projects are a positive step towards achieving carbon neutrality, however connecting to existing CCS Clusters will be expensive and without government support, a distant prospect.

How to manage future growth

Where businesses are growing, their collective carbon footprint will inevitably grow too and that can fall foul of the eco-brigade.

Ask yourself this though, if organisations like us are expanding and replacing more polluting competitors, then surely it is for the greater good.

What is the solution?

Climate action

This is where proper partnerships that get to the root of what’s going on are important.

Stakeholders in companies are becoming ever more demanding of how businesses report their emissions.

Tired of the inevitable greenwashing, they want honest answers to the big questions around the numbers and, unless waste management companies have these to hand, producers will always be on the back foot when they are grilled on results.

A much better approach is to work with a trusted partner who can provide practical solutions and proven data, so you can really see how the changes you are making will convert into helping you achieve your own carbon savings.

Honesty and transparency are key and should always win the battle against the Hectors of this world, whose smoke and mirrors approach does none of us any favours.

I always go back to one great example I have used before – the time when Lego was looking at ways to manufacture its famous bricks from recycled drinks bottles instead of oil-based plastic.

Having done the research, it then determined that to do so would have increased carbon emissions over the product’s lifetime.

Instead, it committed to incorporating more bio-based and recycled material into existing manufacturing methods. 

This is what we need to do more and read more about: tangible examples that actually work.

Perhaps waste producers should also look more closely at the environmental, social and governance (ESG) policies and successes of their partners and join forces in initiatives that bring results and make a difference.

At Grundon, we’ve been doing that extensively. For instance, our employees regularly volunteer with London-based food redistribution charity The Felix Project, which we’ve provided free waste collection services for over the last eight years.

We’ve been involved in volunteering at the fabulous Woodoaks Farm project, near Maple Cross, helping to clear areas for potential forest school classes and we’ve provided funding to help improve wildlife habitats.

Just two of the real-world projects we are working on to make a difference – I doubt Hector could say the same.

If you’re looking for a partner that has been counting its carbon emissions since they began to really matter and brings ESG policies to life, then look no further.

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