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How the Carbon Trust is helping businesses reduce their carbon emissions.

The Carbon Trust helps businesses and the public sector reduce their carbon emissions and become more resource efficient by providing specialist help, support and advice. It was established in 2001 and since then has saved its customers more than £5bn in costs and reduced carbon emissions by over 53.5Mt. The organisation is based in London but has a global network of offices in Beijing, Mexico City, Johannesburg and New York.

Work-It met Paul Huggins who is an Associate Director at The Carbon Trust to find out more about the organisation and its work.

What’s the background of The Carbon Trust?

The Carbon Trust was set up with a mission to help organisations reduce their carbon emissions and we have worked with thousands of organisations across the private and public sector to support their sustainable, carbon reduction activities. We also work with businesses that are developing new and innovative energy efficient technologies.

How and when was it founded?

The Carbon Trust was formed in 2001 by Defra as an independent not-for-profit organisation to drive forward carbon reduction activities in the UK. Between 2001 and 2010 we were government funded and worked with over 35,000 organisations to help them identify energy and carbon saving opportunities and also helped galvanise UK enterprise into delivering leading edge environmental technologies. Since 2010 we have been a commercial but not-for-profit company

What key campaigns are you currently working on?

We recently launched a new report at the House of Commons calling on businesses to take advantage of the opportunities in a resource constrained world and urgently address their resource use. We also find ourselves doing more work beyond carbon, looking at wider sustainability impacts, such as water and waste. Plus, we continue to expand around the world, exporting the UK experience to emerging economies and recently opened offices in South Africa and Mexico, to run alongside our international presence in China.

How do attitudes to energy efficiency vary between industries?

Each industry has its own challenges to reduce its carbon footprint. That said, the same approaches can be used to identify the strategic, operational and tactical, sustainable, low carbon opportunities that exist. To ensure an industry or individual organisation leads its own agenda, it is important to understand the strategic opportunities and threats that the sustainable, carbon reduction challenge brings before addressing this. What many organisations don’t realise is that for every opportunity, there’s a threat to be mitigated and this is often where we can help.

What are the most common issues you see?

Post-recession issues include organisations not knowing the best way to tackle their carbon reduction activities due to a lack of internal resources, financial issues due to competing growth projects and organisations not appreciating the benefits a sustainable, low carbon economy will deliver.

Are problems emerging as workplace habits change?

To ensure workplace carbon reductions are maintained, continued focus needs to be placed on the optimal use of building energy management systems and building controls - making sure they are set-up correctly for current operating requirements, ensuring employees remain engaged in energy reduction campaigns and that the use of pervasive IT is carefully considered. There is a lot of embedded carbon in using IT, including the energy used in simply storing data which most people don’t think about.

How has the recession impacted on your work?

Like many businesses we kept going by adapting our products and services to meet our customers’ needs while maintaining a sharp focus on our mission. This was tough in such challenging business conditions but this continued commitment showed a high level of integrity which gives us great authenticity with our customers.

Is it just large organisations that benefit from your help, or do you work with SMEs?

We work across the business spectrum encouraging and enabling businesses of all sizes to understand sustainable low carbon opportunities. This could mean looking at the water, waste and carbon footprints of products, developing sustainable resource reduction strategies, accelerating the development of clean tech and identifying ways of reducing energy expenditure which can be financed through our partnership with Siemens Financial Services.

What would you say to a business that thinks it already does all it can because it turns the lights out at night?

Firstly I would say that reducing energy is a good thing as it makes environmental and financial sense and it is easy to ask businesses to continue down this path but it’s wrong to think that’s all they need to do. I would encourage all businesses to step back and look at the sustainable, low carbon challenge from a new vantage point – that of opportunity not obligation. The sustainable, low carbon challenge is transformational. It enables new ways of seeing markets, products, supply chains and costs.

Do businesses use their relationship with you as a selling point when they are courting new customers?

Yes. Many businesses see great value in following a sustainable, lower carbon path and want independent assurance that their products and services are sustainable so their customers can be confident about the environmental claims they make. The Carbon Trust offers a range of services and product assurance approaches to highlight verified sustainability performance. We also have our Green Business Directory to highlight suppliers that deliver low carbon technology solutions.

What does the future hold for The Carbon Trust?

Our future is bright. We’ve got a strong commercial foundation to build on and move our business forward. Our experience and capabilities are clearly valued by governments overseas and we’ll work with growing numbers over the coming years as they develop their response to climate change and sustainable development. At the same time we see growing interest from forward thinking enterprises keen to understand and explore the sustainability inside their products, services and supply chains, through the lens of sustainable, resource efficiency, to ensure these remain relevant to their markets. Sustainability inside is a remarkably powerful approach which will deliver products that are resource efficient, cheaper to operate, easier to recycle and less impactful on the environment. At the same time this approach is leading to a quiet revolution in supply chain design which could be the key differentiator in the coming years.

Paul Huggins in a nutshell

What would you do if you won the lottery?

I have been lucky enough to work with the Carbon Trust for nine years and each day feels like I am making a difference so I would continue working in the sustainability and resource efficiency sector.

How would you spend a perfect day off work?

I love spending time with the family. I’d head off with the family to a National Trust property and have a nice long walk around the estate, followed by time at a play park and a bite to eat.

If you weren’t in your current position what would be your ideal job?

I am in my ideal job! It’s a cross between a Tomorrow’s World journalist and market economist. I see and learn a lot about clean technology and the markets in which they operate. It’s always interesting and challenging and I meet hundreds of committed individuals innovating great technologies.

Where is your favourite holiday destination?

Although I’ve travelled extensively my favourite holiday destination is where I grew up – the eastern English and Scottish border. A remarkably beautiful and timeless landscape with great local attractions, good restaurants and friendly locals.

What’s your favourite film?

‘The Thomas Crown Affair’ with Rene Russo and Pierce Brosnan. It’s a film that works on so many levels. On the surface a thrilling crime drama, on another a love story between two people who have everything they want except the one thing they can’t buy – love. That said, what I like most is the bowler hat scene at the museum.

What book did you read last?

I’m always interested in learning new perspectives on events and I recently read “Debunking Economics” a review of economic theory and how conventional theory failed to adequately identify, manage and ameliorate the recession we have all lived through. For me it is a bit of a busman’s holiday book!

If you could meet a well-known person who would it be and what would you ask them?

It would be the late Steve Jobs. I’d ask him how he got the concept of the networked device and, at a time when tablet computers were out of favour, turned it into the iPad. How does his technology innovation approach really work? And lastly how would he solve the sustainable, resource efficiency challenge that will be felt by all businesses including Apple in the coming years?

What’s your proudest moment?

Becoming a father.

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