How we measure our sustainability

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Sustainability has been central to Naturesave’s business objectives since the company was founded over 30 years ago. Whilst we have a long-running campaign of helping other businesses become more sustainable, it was only recently we applied this focus to our own business too.

In 2019 we took a first look at our carbon footprint using the Compare Your Footprint tool – a self-servicing carbon calculator which is very easy to use for an SME. After a two-year gap, in part due to Covid, plus a readjustment period as we became part of the Benefact Group, we felt now would be a good time to revisit our emmissions data.

In 2019 we had a total footprint of 13.72 tons of C02e, with our biggest impact being in scope 3 – employee commuting. Roll forward to 2022 and we found our impact has been decreased by well over a half, to an impressive 5.2 tC02e.

So how did we do this? Our carbon reduction has been driven by two key areas: a change in our working days and in our energy supplier.

Transport – Following the pandemic, Naturesave decided to switch to a four-day working week. This had a significant impact, as the largest portion of our carbon footprint is staff commuting. An additional slight benefit was achieved due to another member of our team switching to an electric car.

Energy – The second reason we achieved such a healthy carbon reduction, relates to our landlord – a local housing association – moving all of their rental stock to a renewable energy supply. Needless to say, we had been asking for this switch for some time, however we are delighted to now be running on renewable energy, boosting the output of our solar panels.

How did we calculate our carbon footprint?

To calculate our emissions, we once again used the services of Compare Your Footprint. Their calculations adhere to the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol Corporate Accounting and Reporting Standard – the global standard for a carbon footprint.

In calculating our carbon footprint, we took a market-based approach. This means we have calculated emissions that we as a company are responsible for, through our purchasing decisions, such as a renewable energy contract.

What did we include?

We measured all the elements that make up our operational emissions. This includes office energy, electrical equipment (computers, monitors, keyboards etc), employee commuting, the dwell time emissions of our website, and purchases such as paper and cleaning products.

What is not included?

Carbon attributed to our Insurance policies – After measuring the emissions that relate to running our office, IT equipment and our staff travel, we are left with the insurance policies we sell. Unfortunately, none of our insurance partners are yet able to supply us with data relating to the carbon contained in each insurance policy.

The good news is that there is a new effort to measure and publish this information, known as the ‘Partnership for Carbon Accounting Financials (PCAF) Global GHG Accounting and Reporting Standard for the Insurance Industry’. The bad news is that the new standard is only a recommendation and not a requirement. It also omits construction risks (so essentially all fossil fuel infrastructure!).  As is so often the case in insurance, things are changing but not at a rate that fully respects the laws of physics.

Carbon attributed to our cloud computing – We also did not include any cloud computing emissions, as we have only recently switched our systems into the cloud. Until we became part of the Benefact Group, Naturesave operated a legacy system, which required hard-copy paper administration. When we next review our emissions, the switch to a digital cloud-based solution will then be reflected.

What are Scope 3 emissions, and why are they so important?

For anyone not familiar with the so-called “Wild West of scope 3”, this is a carbon reporting process which covers 17 categories of business processes. This ranges from banking to supplier distribution – so working through your scope 3 carbon emissions is key to tackling corporate climate action. Globally businesses we need to know what is in our scope 3 carbon footprint and reduce this by 90% through substitutions with a low-carbon good or service or by innovation in order to reach net-zero. The issue with scope 3 is that calculating the carbon emission of an entire supply chain has not been done before – so scope 3 emissions are difficult or even impossible to tabulate – which is why it is referred to as the Wild West.

So along with all other businesses, we have our work cut out, in order to access information surrounding our supply chains and the data to create science-based targets. So for now we are limited in what scope 3 emissions we can measure both due to the nature of the business – insurance underwriting – but we are working on it! Our next carbon footprint will hopefully have scope 3 data that includes our the carbon relating to the insurance policies we sell.

Some are other ways we address our scope 3 indirectly, which are:

House-holders – since the mid-1990s Naturesave have been offering discounts on our household premiums to householders that are making an effort to reduce their impact. For instance, this could be saving energy to using energy-efficient appliances.

Businesses – since 1992 Naturesave have been offering our Environmental Review Service to all commercial clients of a certain size. In 2012 this grew into the One Planet Living assessment developed by Bioregional – taken up by over 200 business clients. With the landscape ever-changing and the global goal of net zero, this service has evolved for a third time – to become our Sustainability Service.

Our Insurance Partners – as mentioned, insurers are yet to publish the emssions contained in their policies. Whilst we agree this is a challenge, but we also argue that tighter policies fossil fuel are preferable to waiting for the industry to gather the data and agree to publish it. By this we mean that insurers should immediately stop insuring any new fossil projects and sell their remaining fossil fuel investments.

Our Naturesave Grove with Trees for Life – The Naturesave Trust has been funding tree planting since 2009. This began with a policy of planting a tree for every Naturesave home insurance customer who stayed with us for 10 years or more. In April 2019, the Trust decided to increase this contribution, by funding the planting of a tree for each and every new insurance policy issued by Naturesave Insurance.

The trees are planted in the Scottish Highlandsas part of a long-running project to restore the Caledonian Forest. There are now around 2,230 native trees planted in ‘The Naturesave Grove’, which include Alder, Ash, Birch, Oak, Rowan and Scots Pine. As this rich habitat is restored it will support wildlife such as red squirrel, black grouse, capercaillie, pine marten and golden eagles.

In 2022 our carbon footprint calculation had decreased to 5.2 tC02e. Trees for Life do not provide a figure for the number of trees needed to offset a tonne of CO2e (outside of the accredited offsetting scheme, which is very much tied to one site and has been independently verified). The reason is Trees for Life plant a range of native tree species in a variety of locations at Dundreggan and in other nearby areas. Also carbon sequestration is a complex process that varies greatly depending on the species of tree, soil type, altitude, climate and other ecological factors, so there is no rule of thumb for the amount of carbon a tree will offset in its lifetime.

However, Trees for Life did conduct a survey on one of their larger planting sites, which took into account all of these factors. It found that approximately four trees will offset one tonne of CO2e. (This figure is specific to that particular planting site and may be very different in another location.)

We calculated as an estimate that our 2,230 trees, could in theory have sequestered 557.5 tonnes of carbon over their lifetime. With our calculated annual footprint being 5.2 tC02e, we are confident that our office operation would be carbon negative, as we will plant over annually many more trees than the 20 trees, needed to offset our annual emissions.

What we cant measure – At Naturesave we know that we don’t just stop at our scope 3 – which is why campaigning is so important to us. For that reason we will keep lobbying the insurance industry to make more rapid changes to tackle the climate crisis.  

Our industry manages total investments that equate to 25 percent of the UK’s net worth, making it pivotal to our economy. However, when it comes to the fight against climate change, insurance does not normally spring to mind.  So, it may come as a surprise to learn that the industry is not only one of the world’s biggest investors in fossil fuels, it is also the key enabler to fossil fuel production. Without insurance, most coal mines, gas field or oil wells would not get built or continue to operate.

Our efforts are focused on the need for insurers to accelerate the process of fossil fuel divestment, and to stop underwriting all new fossil fuel production.

Naturesave are also member of Business Declares, supporter of the Climate and Ecology Emergency Bill (CEE Bill) and are rated the number 1 most ethical insurers by Ethical Consumer magazine.

The world needs businesses of all shapes and sizes to work towards emissions reductions that are in line with science-based targets, to limit global warming to 1.5°C. Naturesave is taking a reduction-first approach to our carbon footprint. What this means is that we will do what we can to improve the environmental efficiency of our operations, and services first.

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