Climate Action Programme case study: Thrive
29th March 2023
Thrive Renewables build and operate renewable energy projects so take their own carbon footprint very seriously. In this case study, David Matheson, Sustainability Analyst, and Louise Daniels, Head of Communications and Marketing at Thrive, share their successes, challenges, and hopes.
At Thrive Renewables we’ve been funding, constructing and operating projects which generate renewable electricity since 1994, leading to direct carbon emissions reductions. Our whole business model is about facilitating people to get involved in renewable energy and avoid burning fossil fuels. Of course, our work still has an impact on the environment and generates emissions, so we’ve made a commitment to be net zero by 2030 through the SME Climate Hub.
We are helping other businesses towards their net zero commitments by generating renewable electricity and selling it to energy suppliers, as well as funding ‘direct wire’, where businesses can install solar or wind on site. It’s going well and over the last 30 years our team and projects have grown. The tricky thing is that the more we grow, the more we build, and the more our organisational emissions go up, despite overall helping the UK economy to decarbonise. So we must account for, and mitigate, emissions from our projects.
Going beyond the basics
Starting with scope 1 and 2, we’ve based ourselves in one of the greenest buildings in Bristol, ensured we use renewable electricity for all our operational projects, and we’ve switched to certified green gas from Wessex Water.
In terms of scope 3 emissions, one key area has been business travel, commuting and homeworking. In pre-pandemic 2019, our per person average business travel emissions were higher than 2022 even though our team has grown, and we travelled further. This is due to reducing flights and increasingly relying on train travel for site visits and meetings across the UK.
Reporting on homeworking is an optional bolt-on to the employee commuting reporting category but it felt right to include it. To begin to understand emissions related to homeworking, we asked staff to complete a simple questionnaire based on the EcoAct homeworking emissions whitepaper such as how many days they work from home per week, their main mode of travel when they do commute, and their home energy tariffs.
Our staff are already quite environmentally aware but nonetheless we’ve been finding ways to engage people in being good environmental stewards. One initiative we’ve implemented to support more sustainable travel choices is Climate Perks, where staff can take holiday travel days for slow travel. Although Thrive are not directly responsible for emissions generated during staff holidays, we’ve loved offering this staff reward. It has helped to embed sustainability as part of the organisational culture and make slow travel normal and easy.
Getting to grips with our wider footprint
With contracting out large engineering projects, most of our emissions fall into scope 3 so it’s a challenge and a priority for us to get to grips with this. We’ve been using the Greenhouse Gas Protocol as a framework to identify which categories are relevant for us and work towards reporting on more areas of scope 3 as it’s always going to be hard to manage what you can’t measure.
We can look at the carbon intensity of our different activities and try to do things more efficiently but ultimately minimising our scope 3 emissions ties into procurement decisions. We’ve started a piece of work to engage with our suppliers. Often a barrier to supplier engagement is people not understanding the language around scope 1/2/3 emissions, so we began with a very basic survey to try to make a connection with the most suitable person to talk to. Lots of suppliers have come back to us and we’re in the process of speaking with them about what data they can provide and working on best estimates for the gaps.
For the love of bees, bats, and birds
There are lots of aspects to sustainability, it’s not just about getting to net zero. The climate and nature crises are linked, we can’t effectively address one without the other. We’ve created a Biodiversity Policy to acknowledge this additional sustainable development goal and do the best we can to conserve and enhance biodiversity on our sites.
Biodiversity net gain is a way to contribute to the recovery of nature while developing land and will soon apply to all development sites. However, this is just one metric, and we want to go beyond this and try to outdo the mandatory requirements. We’re still very much learning what that looks like. We are in the process of commissioning a new battery storage site near Feeder Road, Bristol. Here we have been working with ecologists and landscape architects to enhance biodiversity through tree, hedgerow and grassland planting as well as installing features such as bat and bird boxes, insect hotels and a hedgehog house. We’re investigating what level of biodiversity net gain we might achieve.
- This is an opportunity as well as a challenge for business. Looking at net zero amongst other impact related challenges is useful in terms of improving how you do business and there are economic advantages.
- Consider the wider impact of your work. For example, on nature and biodiversity, but also the social impacts. It’s important to ensure the benefits of a transition to net zero are felt throughout society. For example, we offer a community benefit scheme, providing energy efficiency grants for community buildings close to our clean energy sites.
- Make sure your climate and nature action plans are properly integrated into the business and regularly reviewed and updated as you learn new things.
- Use existing resources such as from the Climate Action Programme and the Greenhouse Gas Protocol.
- Engage with other businesses that are at a similar point and be transparent about the challenges. Being part of the Climate Leaders Group has meant we’ve learnt from different approaches as well as being reassured when hearing we’re tackling something in a similar way.
- Try not to get bogged down in the negative news. Sometimes it can feel like we are too small to make a difference, but while we do need systemic change, every small action does add up.
- Don’t let perfection get in the way of progress!
Thrive Renewables are a member of Bristol Green Capital Partnership’s Climate Leaders Group. Find out more about Thrive’s net zero pledge and action plan on their website and check out their biodiversity policy and wider social impact.
If your organisation is looking for a cleaner energy supply, switch to 100% renewable energy with guidance from our spotlight on green energy tariffs for businesses article. Larger organisations could consider corporate power purchase agreements with their energy generators, or talk to Thrive if you have significant electricity requirements and sizeable buildings which may be suitable on-site energy generation.