As of December 2021 Jolly Good Beer is a “carbon neutral” business.
But what the hell does that even mean? I admit that I am a sceptic of the whole “carbon neutral” approach… the whole “lets plant some trees and stick a logo on our product” thing is pretty sketchy. Yeah, trees “capture” carbon – over a long time, and only if you can guarantee their survival – and that’s a long term problem, it’s no good if they’re chopped down and burnt in 20 years. Likewise there is something condescending about the “clean stoves for poor Africans” kind of approach – whilst we cruise around in our petrochemical burning cars, watching Netflix, and eating all of the cows. So I have prevaricated about the whole “offsetting” thing for too long really… but at the end of the day I think the most important principle is definitely “something is better than nothing” – so we have gone and done it, we have calculated our “carbon footprint” and used offset schemes to actually offset 2x our calculated footprint – just to be certain.
So… how does this work? Jolly Good Beer is essentially a pretty basic business at the core – we are a logistics business, we store goods (chilled) and transport them to customers (also chilled). As such there are two key sources of CO2 linked to the business – the electricity we use at our warehouse, and the diesel we burn in our vans. Our mainly “work from home” staff also add in a small footprint we are responsible for. Other than that there’s the usual bits and pieces a business uses, though we cannot take responsibility for every detail of our own incoming supply chain. (It’s too complex to assess, but where possible we will take steps to buy from other businesses who’re also on a carbon neutrality path.)
Obviously just counting CO2 and then throwing some money at “offsets” is a pretty lazy process. So there’s a key imperative in the middle of these two things to “reduce” – the process is: measure, reduce, offset. In our case we have already done work on reduction where we can – we minimise in-house use of plastics, we replace lights with LED units where it makes sense to, and we are also pro-actively involved in plastics recycling. Unfortunately our electricity supply is outside of our control, so is just with a standard supplier – and the diesel (by far our biggest CO2 source) is unavoidable. Electric vehicles are nowhere near here yet for our type of logistics (heavy weight over long miles). I am hoping to get control of our electric supply some time in the next year and switch to a tariff that supports “green” energy supply – and for vehicles we are currently investigating HVO as an alternative fuel, but it’s economically difficult to make that change right at this moment (December 2021).
Carbon neutrality is a journey, not something you just buy a packet of off the shelf.
But for the moment that “buy a packet off the shelf” is certainly an element of the viable approach available to us. Thus we have assessed our CO2 footprint as best we can – and we have bought carbon offsets off the shelf from carbonfootprint.com to cover 2x our calculated footprint (as I know there are little bits of difficult to assess footprint we will be missing out… we will continue to assess this and refine it, but we will also always aim to create a “net negative” carbon balance… i.e. offset more than we produce). The way this works is we sum up our footprint from the previous year, and pay a monthly subscription for the year ahead to offset in-arrears the calculated footprint, and then in a year we repeat the process. Our calculated carbon footprint for the year from start November 2020 to end October 2021 was 60.7 tonnes (as per report linked here) – and we are offsetting that over the year ahead with monthly subscriptions, and will recalculate for Nov-21 to Oct-22 in December 2022. (At which point we will update this page.)
I have chosen two different offset options deliberately spreading their style and impacts – spreading our carbon-offset bets, per se. We with the doubling and the spreading I feel almost OK with the whole offsetting concept. As such we have bought into both the modes of offsetting I dissed at the top of this post… as they’re the sorts of things that are available. One is good old “plant some trees” – and the UK Tree Planting scheme available via carbonfootprint.com is a robust one that both plants trees here in the UK and also hedges its bets with a scheme for protecting trees in the Amazon. This scheme is QAS Approved and meets British Standards for officially achieving carbon neutrality. The other scheme we have subscribed to is their Community Projects scheme – which is one of the “help developing nations” style of offsetting approaches. The advantage of this sort of scheme is it not only helps developing nations onto a lower-emissions pathway, it improves quality of life and standards for their people. We in the “first world” owe an immeasurable debt for the centuries we have oppressed and fleeced many of these nations, so if we can contribute in this way that seems a good thing. This scheme is Gold Standard certified and also QAS Approved. (I say the previous fully aware the “first world” continues to take advantage of the “third world” and there is just so much that is unjust about global economics, it’s deeply depressing – at a level it is condescending for us as the biggest CO2 emissions producers to fling some money at developing nations and say “here, fix your shit” as if it makes up for our own indiscretions. Our responsibilities & debt do not end there.)
What’s next? As I said above, this is a journey not a “quick fix” – we have work to do on both reduction and certification. At the moment we have measured our own carbon footprint using the tools on carbonfootprint.com – we can have this verified and certified, but that costs a certain amount of money we cannot budget in right now. This in part is why we doubled our offsetting, for peace of mind that we have it fully covered. Certification is on the roadmap for 2022, ahead of doing our next annual assessment. On the reduction side the key things we hope to do are: get our own metered power connection so we can switch to a green energy provider; and we are continuing to consider migrating our fleet to HVO fuel. (HVO is a lower carbon footprint alternative to diesel, made from vegetable oils.)
It doesn’t end there – we will also continue to be proactive on our industry’s plastics issues, working with manufacturers on recycling plastic kegs, and finding recycling paths for other plastics where we can. Reducing use of plastics where possible and within our control. We will assess every year the carbon offset choices we make, and try and contribute our offset money where we think it does the most good. And we will continue to seek out ways to actively reduce our footprint… maybe by 2030 we’ll be running Tesla vans charged off solar and wind power, and all our plastics will be bioplastics that really do break down safely. Things like this are realistic – if we have the motivation to make them happen.