Why firms must work with their customers to achieve climate change goals
Dan Ibbetson, chief executive of Portakabin, which constructs modular buildings, said creating a sustainable business model is not good enough.
The York-headquartered company, which is on a mission to eradicate its carbon emissions by 2040, said businesses needed to work with their customers to reduce their carbon footprints.
“Our customers are increasingly aware of how their business operations and behaviours impact the planet and are asking us for products and services that help them to achieve their sustainability ambitions,” he told The Yorkshire Post.
The Greenhouse Gas Protocol – which provides widely recognised accounting standards for greenhouse gas emissions – categorises greenhouse gas emissions into three ‘scopes’ for organisations.
Scope one and scope two cover direct emissions from owned or controlled sources and indirect emissions from the purchase and use of electricity, steam, heating and cooling.
Among the measures that Portakabin is implementing to reduce its carbon footprint is moving its diesel fleet to electric.
Scope three includes all other indirect emissions that occur in the activities of an organisation.
"Businesses talk a lot about the actions they’re taking with scope one and scope two emissions; it’s much harder to address scope three: working with your customers to reduce their carbon footprints. We’re determined to help them achieve that, said Mr Ibbetson.
Portakabin, which builds everything from temporary accommodation for construction workers, to full-scale hospital buildings, schools, factories and mass vaccination centres, employs around 2,000 staff across 10 European countries, including 600 in York. It produces buildings which put re-use, refurbishment and recycling into practice across the operation.
The £380m turnover company is commercialising a new product for the European hire market – particularly in the healthcare and education sectors.
The Alta building uses mineral insulation materials for optimal energy efficiency.
Mr Ibbetson, who joined Portakabin in January 2022 and has supplied heating and cooling systems for three Olympic Games, including London 2012, during his career, expressed concern about ‘greenwashing’ from companies making unsustainable environmental claims.
He added: “You’ve always got to be doing more. It’s hard working with customers to do that but unless everyone accepts a level of responsibility. we’re not going to achieve our climate change goals.”
Mr Ibbetson is also decarbonising his own home. A ground source heat pump now provides all his hot water and heating, powered by a 10-kilowatt solar array.
“I’ve got two daughters and I want something left for them,” Mr Ibbetson said. “People talk about what we need to do; what the world needs to do, but they need to personalise that and think about what they need to do, the steps they can take. I worry deeply about the impact of climate change and I believe we have a collective responsibility as individuals, as companies and as governments to take action."