We conducted a sustainability audit to assess our environmental impact in 2006-07.
We wanted to increase our positive impact through the work that we do and to identify how to reduce our own environmental impact.
The audit looked at three levels of our environmental impact:
- impact and influence: what we encourage our stakeholders to do and think about through our campaigns and research, guidance and practical advice
- organisational scale: the building our staff work in and our everyday operations
- CABE family and contractor scale: the activities of the our network and the contractors and service providers we spend our money on.
How did we do the audit?
We appointed sustainability consultancy Beyond Green and footprinting expert Best Foot Forward to do the audit. This involved crunching hard data and listening to people's views about our environmental impact - our impact as an organisation, through our network and suppliers, and on our stakeholders.
While carbon and climate change are very big issues, sustainable development is about more than these. So we commissioned a calculation of our broader ecological footprint as well as our carbon footprint based on information about our resource use, the goods and services we buy and how we travel.
How did we do?
Our carbon footprint - the emissions associated with our activities - was calculated by the audit as 503 tonnes of carbon dioxide emitted per year.
Our consultant says that we are average for the UK. We never like being average, but in this case it gives more than usual cause for concern.
Carbon emissions have to be stabilised worldwide at between one and two tonnes per person by 2030, and we generate 4.6 tonnes each.
Being average also means that in terms of our ecological footprint, everyone who works at CABE exceeds the sustainable earthshare of just under 1.8 global hectares per person. This is without counting our private lifestyles. Our total annual ecological footprint was 222 global hectares, an average 2.05gha each.
Why did we need an audit?
Sustainable development is a key government priority, as set out in Securing the future: delivering UK government sustainable development strategy. All central government departments and their agencies are required to produce sustainable development action plans. Our funding departments, DCMS and CLG, have already produced theirs and the requirement will soon be extended to non-departmental public bodies like CABE.
As the government's advisor on architecture, urban design and public space, we decided to address sustainability early to ensure we are equipped to lead on these issues.
The UK public sector spends £150 billion each year on procurement. Efficiency and value for money are essential considerations. The government's sustainable procurement task force report, Procuring the future, outlines how the procurement of more sustainable goods and services in the public sector can play a key role in efficiency gains, if whole-life values and accounting are used rather than lowest cost.
Although our annual budget is only £11 million, we have a key role to play in stimulating the market for more sustainable goods, services, buildings and places.
We also want to demonstrate how other organisations of our size can improve. We employ around 120 staff and occupy one floor (approximately 1,600 square metres) of a seven-storey 1960s office building in central London. We hope that what we do to improve our performance will provide useful pointers for others.
We are repeating the audit to track our progress. We will report the results of this audit in summer 2009.
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