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James Smurthwaite looks at the advantages of calculating your carbon footprint

When James Smurthwaite left Mitsubishi Electric at the beginning of 2022 to set up the consultant company, Green Net Zero, he did so because he could see that there was a real need for independent support for businesses wanting to decarbonise and develop their net zero plans.

James had spent time in the Corporate Team within Mitsubishi Electric and found some businesses wanted to talk to a manufacturer about products to achieve net zero.

However, they often lacked the support to implement these solutions into their buildings: “Mitsubishi Electric has been a trailblazer on reducing carbon and the road to net zero, but some clients demand practical support and an independent point of view,” he explains.

It made sense to start off looking at our carbon footprint to help us understand the same challenges as our clients

James Smurthwaite James Smurthwaite Green Net Zero

Understanding the challenge

Wanting to focus purely on supporting the UK’s Net Zero Strategy for heat and buildings, James founded Green Net Zero with the directors of Cheltenham-based M&E Contractor, Frankland Group. He says he’s excited about making a positive difference to his clients, as well as playing a part in tackling climate change.

In order to demonstrate their own commitment to the zero-carbon agenda, the company has recently undergone a review of their carbon footprint with ClimatePartner, Mitsubishi Electric’s preferred solution provider for corporate climate action.

“It’s always best to be as open and honest about everything as we can be and it just seemed to make sense to start off with looking at our carbon footprint to help us understand the same challenges as our clients,” explains James.

The process measured the amount of carbon they used as a business for 2021, to understand how to use less, and also offset what they do use.

Having a plan in place

It quickly became clear that the majority of carbon usage comes from transport, with most of the company’s vehicles currently using fossil fuels. Over time Green Net Zero will transition to hybrid or fully electric, but these things take time and of course, money.

“The main thing for me is that we now have a plan, and we will keep doing things that help reduce our usage in proportion to the number of employees and our turnover,” adds James.

James and his team had a choice of where to offset the carbon they use and decided to fund a project that offsets CO² through renewable energy development in India, the Philippines and the Caribbean.

The additional benefit of this particular project is that for every tonne of CO² the company offsets, they also stop 10kg of plastic waste from entering the ocean.

“For the 140,900 kg of CO² we used in 2021, we will be removing 1,409kg of plastic from the ocean,” says a delighted James.

Practising what you preach

“We see an element of practising what we preach and also putting ourselves through the same challenges that others are having to go through to offer a more sympathetic approach,” explains James, “we want to create a company our employees are proud of, and we’ve had some great comments back from colleagues.”

Frankland Group are an M&E Contractor which undertakes project work throughout the UK and as a part of the Group, James spoke to CEO, Annette Carey, and MD, Paul Carey, once the measurement of the carbon footprint for the group had been completed.

“We wanted to take the opportunity to invest in a worthy project to help offset our own carbon footprint,” explains James. “I knew that Annette and Paul were passionate about making a difference to the environment and people in less fortunate communities.”

Friends of the Care Project

In addition to being the Frankland Group CEO, Annette Cary MBE is Founder and President of a charity called Friends of the Care Project, which is an independent non-profit organisation that was founded to help improve the facilities at The Care Project in Antigua and Barbuda.

This provides home and a loving and nurturing environment for a number of children and young adults with severe mental and physical disabilities.

Friends of the Care Project is part of a series of other charities called The Halo foundation and a lot of the work this does in Antigua, Barbuda and across the Caribbean see’s the impact that plastic has on local beaches and the ocean.

That’s part of the reason James chose to support a carbon offset project that included the removal of plastic from oceans and waterways.

This separate project is run by Plastic Bank, who have a partnership with Climate Partner. The scheme is also Gold Standard Certified, meaning they are fully transparent with their impact not only with carbon, but also the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“Every single kilo of plastic that can be removed from the ocean equates to one tonne of carbon, so supporting this important work is really making a difference to the fight against climate change,” James adds.

Rowing the Atlantic

“This also doesn’t stop here,” adds James. “The Friends of the Care Project has been chosen by an all-women team in the 2023 Atlantic Challenge named Rowcovery Antigua.

Beyond challenging themselves in the gruelling cross-Atlantic row, Rowcovery Antigua is looking to raise awareness of mental health issues and highlight the need to recognise and support each other when faced with demanding situations, while also raising funds for the Friends Foundation in Antigua.

The 4-female crew is raising funds for the Atlantic challenge which takes place in December 2023 and James is hoping to get Green Net Zero named on the boat, along with other sponsors of the team.

“We care about the future and realise we have the ability to have a positive impact on our planet, not just through becoming carbon neutral and reducing our emissions as a business year on year, but, we also using our expertise in helping others reduce the carbon usage within their buildings,” ends James.

James Smurthwaite, Green Net Zero