Southern Energy Management (SEM) announced today that it is making the commitment to go carbon neutral. As a company specializing in energy efficiency and solar power for residential, commercial and government clients, the company is in the business of helping others lower their impact on the planet, and is excited to be taking a leadership position in offsetting its own carbon footprint with this initiative.
SEM is one of a few businesses in North Carolina to make this type of leadership commitment. In keeping with its goal of supporting local businesses, the company is taking a deliberate and unique step of purchasing renewable energy credits and carbon offsets from a local source: NC GreenPower. Making this choice is more expensive than some of the other offset options available, but NC GreenPower has the added benefit of supporting investment in local renewable energy projects.
"Of course we want to support renewable energy in general, but if there's a way we can achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions and promote sustainability in our home state at the same time, that's a win-win," said SEM co-founder Maria Kingery. "We're excited to be taking this step toward reducing our impact as a company, which is a critical part of our mission. We also hope our choices can serve as an example for other companies to see one of the many ways it's possible to have a positive impact on carbon reduction and support their local community."
Over the last six months, SEM has been calculating its 2009 baseline carbon footprint using the US EPA Climate Leaders Greenhouse Gas Inventory Guidance tool, which is based on an existing protocol developed by the World Resources Institute and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. Once a baseline was established, SEM developed its strategy to achieve carbon neutrality with help from its internal sustainability experts.
"We have two main sources of greenhouse gas emissions: electricity use in our offices and fuel usage through business travel," said SEM's sustainability and cultural development liaison, Jenny Sebley. "We had already been purchasing renewable energy credits for the electricity usage, but this was a big step to offset our driving, too. Now that we have all of this data, it gives us a clearer idea about where to focus our attention as we strive to minimize our environmental impact."
Efficient business practices don't just help reduce carbon footprints, they have a significant and positive fiscal impact, as well. For instance, encouraging team members to carpool to a job site not only reduces our emissions but also saves on fuel costs.
Despite a fleet comprised almost entirely of hybrid vehicles and trucks fueled with biodiesel, business-related travel still comprised more than 60 percent of SEM's greenhouse gas emissions last year. The company is purchasing 168 metric tons of carbon dioxide offsets for gasoline usage in 2010; this will result in the mitigation of 371,045 pounds of greenhouse gases annually and represents the environmental equivalent of 28,541 trees being planted or 525,965 miles not driven per year.
To help offset electricity usage, SEM's renewable energy credits account for 120,000 kWh of local renewable energy generation, which is the environmental equivalent of replacing 97,200 lbs of coal and planting 19,208 trees.
"We're making this pledge immediately, and plan to continue being carbon neutral through at least 2015. This isn't exactly cheap or easy, but it's the right thing to do," said SEM co-founder Bob Kingery. "We're not being shy about this, either. We're throwing this out there as a challenge: we want other companies to join us."
To help reach its goals, SEM joined the EPA Climate Leaders Small Business Network in the summer of 2010. The company also became a certified B Corporation in late 2009. SEM (southern-energy.com) is a proud proponent of the triple bottom line business model, which stresses that helping people and the planet are just as important as making a profit. In addition to announcing its commitment to carbon neutrality, SEM also launched a new section of its website this week devoted to detailing the company's triple bottom line vision and progress.