WSP is one of the two global consultancies who are founding members of the Pledge. WSP is an engineering professional services firm providing technical consultancy to the built and natural environment and is one of the UK’s largest environmental consultancies.
Learn more about their target setting process and why they believe it is important for our sector to be taking action from Deepa Nair, CSR and Social Value Lead at WSP.
Why did WSP sign up for the Pledge?
As a leading environmental consultancy, one of our core offerings to clients is advice on climate change, resilience strategies and decarbonisation. Additionally, our staff want us to be leaders and as such, it is right that we take action to tackle carbon emissions within our own organisation. As a founding member of Pledge To Net Zero, we believe that the UK environmental services sector is well-positioned to be a leader in the UK’s transition to a net zero economy. Through the Pledge, we aim to maximise impact through collaboration and share our learnings and resources with others in the sector, so we can achieve net zero together.
What was the process like for setting your target & understanding your GHG footprint?
Fortunately, we have been publishing our GHG footprint aligned with the GHG Protocol reporting framework for some years, so that was already well established. With regards to setting our own target, our original targets were mandated by WSP Global which we then adopted. However, for UK operations, we recently aligned with SBTi for the 1.5 degrees warming scenario using the absolute contraction methodology. From our measurements, we were able to understand that our main emissions are from business travel and commuting, and since we have more direct control over travel, we have focused most of our internal campaigns on reducing these emissions.
What activities have you included in your scope and why?
We have identified the following activities within each of our scope categories and we recently widened our scope to include the emissions from outsourced IT as for the first time. It’s key that organisations go beyond typical sources of emissions and consider the impact of other activities:
Scope 1: Gas, oil & biomass, refrigerants (HFCs & CFCs), pool vehicles
Scope 2: Electricity
Scope 3: Purchased materials (paper), Electricity transmission & distribution losses, Waste generated in operations, Business travel, Employee commuting, Outsourced IT
Have you experienced any challenges in setting your target or understanding your GHG footprint and if so, how have you overcome them?
One of the biggest challenges in understanding an organisation’s carbon footprint is finding out exactly how much electricity is being supplied to offices where they do not own the contract. WSP has a number of offices across the UK but we only own the energy contracts for around a quarter of these. For the offices where we do own the contract, WSP is able to ensure it is powered by renewable electricity, whilst with the other offices there are difficulties in trying to get the landlords to push forward renewable energy, but we are focusing more on this in the upcoming year.
In terms of the impact of COVID-19 and the increase in working from home, we are conscious of potentially moving WSP’s carbon footprint from our office to colleagues’ homes. For future measurements, it will be important to understand a way to estimate the amount of carbon people are using in their homes.
Additionally, we can collect reliable data on our business travel from our partners, but employee commuting is more difficult. To help with this, we have designed an innovative survey asking people to provide information on how they commuted in the past year which we then collate to include in our measurements.
Why do you think it is important for the environmental services sector to take action on the transition to a low carbon future?
The environmental services sector is at the heart of delivering a sustainable and prosperous net zero economy through its expertise and advice. It’s important that as a sector we take a united leadership role, ‘walk the walk’ and come together to take action on our own GHG emissions.
What actions will WSP be taking to reduce GHG emissions?
We have taken various steps to reduce our GHG emissions over the past year (2019), including the creation of a low-carbon culture through the following initiatives:
Travel Choices Hierarchy: encouraging employees to choose virtual meetings over unnecessary business travel and a £200 levy on domestic flights, with funds raised contributing to WSP Foundation activities
Carbon Conversations: an interactive webinar series designed to inform the business of our carbon-neutral trajectory and showcasing best practice with our company experts
Hosting a Low Carbon Day which engaged staff around how they can reduce their own carbon footprint
Each of our four business units has as carbon champion and their job is to encourage less business travel amongst their colleagues
Green leases initiative which encourages landlords to commit to energy and water conservation measures across our estate
There are some exciting initiatives coming up, too. Internally, we will continue to invest in active travel campaigns and carbon literacy training for our staff and building upon our progress to date, we will be investing in a low carbon vehicle fleet for our colleagues’ work use; authentically offsetting through the purchase of GHG removals; estate localisation to reduce commuting emissions; and reducing the emissions associated with our schemes and designs as part of our wider value supply chain impact.