Reaching net-zero is no small task – here’s how two firms are doing it

A sustainability certifier has created a six-step plan for companies to reach net-zero. We catch up with a kitchen fit-out company and a property developer already on the programme, to see how it’s going

“How the hell do I start?” That’s all Paul Berryman kept thinking over Christmas.

In October, his bosses at The Danesmoor Group – a firm specialising in kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms – had approached him about making the company environmentally sustainable.

“We would like to give you a blank piece of paper to crack on with it,” they said. “We’re not seeing this as a PR stunt. It needs to be done.”

It is: SMEs are responsible for 90% of global business. So, with the UK government committed to cutting carbon emissions by 78 per cent by 2035 – helping it reach net-zero by 2050 – these companies need to be on board.

‘How the hell do I start?’ wondered Paul Berryman, when asked to lead his firm’s net-zero journey

However, a recent YouGov study found that some 715,000 SMEs admitted they weren’t doing enough to tackle climate change. A separate survey by the SME Climate HubIt was revealed that 63% of SMEs believed that a lack of knowledge and skills was the primary reason they didn’t act. Time (48%), and funding (48%), were also factors.

Where can businesses begin?

Berryman was interested in this question. He’d been in the kitchen, bathroom and bedroom industry for three decades. He’d worked a buyer for B&Q and their parent company, Kingfisher. He was also well-versed in sustainable sourcing, modern slavery, and all other trade details. But carbon reduction?

“I probably [knew] the same as Joe Public,” he says. He decided to use Google. “I wanted to find reputable companies that could assist us on this journey.”

We’re not seeing this as a PR stunt. It has to be done

Soon, Berryman found Planet Mark,A net-zero certifier, which verifies and measures carbon to aid companies in reducing their emissions. He reached out to them and signed up for their Net Zero Programme.

“Our Net Zero Programme has been supporting businesses of all sizes, at all stages on their sustainability journey, to reach this ambition by setting and reaching net-zero targets,” explains Steve Malkin, CEO and founder of Planet Mark.

The certifier’s six-stage programme includes comprehensive carbon footprinting (after all, ‘what gets measured gets managed’), annual certification and strategies for businesses to reach net-zero.

“In less than four months, we went from having nothing to being carbon-neutral certified,” says Berryman.

The Danesmoor Group was not ready to sacrifice sustainability. Image: Danesmoor Group

Planet Mark-certified businesses achieve an average annual reduction of 24% in carbon emissions, while 98% meet their annual targets.

“We’re hoping to save at least 50 per cent of our target just by using bins properly,” explains Berryman. “Just by using our waste more efficiently, we can save 16 tonnes of carbon.”

It’s a staggering figure. Planet Mark encourages businesses and organizations to share their knowledge in order for them to have a greater collective impact.

“We are inspired by our community of hundreds of businesses who have become the leaders of their industry. They are striving for continuous improvement in reducing their carbon emissions and lessening their impact on the planet,” says Malkin.

Net zero is complex. Planet Mark makes it easy.
Planet Mark’s six-stage Net Zero Programme is available to you, no matter where you are in your net zero journey.
Learn more

Thakeham Homes, a company that builds houses in southeast England, is one of these companies.

“I ask questions on the [Planet Mark] forum,” says Stuart Whymark-Phillips, the company’s health, safety and sustainability coordinator. “Last week we wanted to change our business cards, but our current printer only prints a minimum of 150 cards, and we don’t use that many.”

He posted a quick message on the forum and soon had a new contact to help him find a sustainable company that would meet his needs. Although it may seem like a small thing, these are important conversations companies must have to reach net zero.

Thakeham Homes is approaching an important milestone on their net-zero journey. “If we’re handing over a set of keys to a customer from the 1 January 2025, that home will be zero carbon,” says Josie Cadwallader‑Thornewill, the firm’s sustainability director.

According to the firm, all Thakeham Homes net zero will be achieved by 2025. Image: Thakeham Homes

The company is testing HVO (hydrotreated Vegetable Oil) fuel in its forklifts. A salary sacrifice scheme has been set up to help staff move to electric vehicles. The company aims to create more wildlife than it removes from newbuild sites.

“There is a certain amount of stuff that we’re in control of, like the forklifts running around our site, burning gas and oil,” Cadwallader‑Thornewill says, “but there’s a lot of carbon emissions that happen on our site that’s not [from] us.”

And this is where it gets complicated for business – because they don’t just need to reduce their scope one emissions (the CO2 directly emitted from the company itself). They must also reduce their scope two emissions (end to end emissions from utilities such as energy) and their scope three emissions (indirect emission through the value chain).

Planet Mark can help with that. Thakeham Homes worked with Planet Mark to map out all single-use plastics coming to and leaving its buildings. They also looked into ways to reduce it.

Thakeham Homes uses vegetable oils to power its forklift trucks. Image: Planet Fox

Thirteen signatories representing the supply chain signed a pledge to reduce, eliminate or recycle as much plastic as they can. They also pledged to remove plastic from the supply chain and take it out of the site before it reaches it.

Paul Berryman, Danesmoor Group, is working with companies and individuals in their value chains to reduce emissions. He’s sparked conversations about fleets of electric vehicles with delivery group DPD and has had his suppliers sit in on sustainability sessions.

This goes beyond the company’s efforts to convert food waste into biogas, install solar panels on buildings, or use biomass as an alternative to natural gas in new factories. They are even looking at a scheme where they can remove old kitchens from customers and repurpose the timber to heat factories.

In less than 4 months, we went carbon neutral and were certified.

Some firms have seen unexpected positive results from the race to net zero, including a shift in corporate culture.

“For sustainability to work, you can’t have this old school mentality of ‘I’m not going to share anything, I’m going to keep it all to myself.’ You’ve got to engage everybody throughout the supply chain [and] the value chain from supplier all the way down to the customer,” says Berryman.

“Because this isn’t necessarily a commercially sensitive conversation … people are much more willing to talk about it and share ideas,” he adds.

Suddenly his piece of paper isn’t blank anymore.

Main image: Sabrina Bracher