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Our journey to carbon neutrality - What does sustainability mean to NQA?

13 July 2022
Being sustainable, to NQA, means to act in a manner that avoids the depletion of resources and provides a resolution to allow activities, services, and the earth as a whole to continue to exist. Sustainability to NQA can relate to a breadth of environmental, social and governance topics.

NQA recognises the importance of channelling sustainability throughout our organisation and industry. We feel passionately about tackling global sustainability issues and plan to continue evolving our actions and understanding.

Initially NQA considered the 17 UNSDG’s (United Nations Sustainability Development Goals) as the foundation of global sustainability issues and took inspiration from this when planning and implementing action. Whilst each goal plays a crucial part within our wider community, we believe our most fundamental and relevant goals which we can best act on are:

  • Goal 3: Good Health and Well Being

  • Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth

  • Goal 9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure

  • Goal 13: Climate Action

From here, as we delved deeper, we have also considered an Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) approach. We were able to align the two approaches and map our goals to support the ESG criteria.

Where did NQA learn about carbon neutrality?

NQA are fortunate to have a wealth of experience and knowledge of sustainability and specifically environmental matters through our established assessor team. Many of our assessors have come from a background in environmental consultancy, environmental managers etc. and work now to provide audits in their respected field.

With this, there is constantly shared knowledge and discussions which carbon neutrality was subject to.
As the project began the focus was initially centred around carbon neutrality as a service offering to support our clients. PAS 2060 has been a huge interest to our clients and a massive talking point.

NQA are proud to be one of the few bodies on the pilot scheme for UKAS accreditation which will further support our delivery on this verification. As the scheme grew in motion and established its position, NQA took the opportunity to look internally and practice what we preach! It was important to us to implement PAS 2060 to be relatable and transparent for our clients and stakeholders. Not only this, but PAS 2060 is currently the only recognised scheme for demonstrating carbon neutrality!

Looking internally

To achieve our goal, we understood this would require resource and capabilities. Stephen Burt, our Field Director and PAS 2060 verifier, has an impressive background in environmental consultancy and soon started to get to work leading the project!

In previous years NQA had calculated our carbon footprint so we were able to co-operate with some existing practices and data. To ensure we were meeting the requirements of PAS 2060, there was a level of planning that factored into this. For example, how to gather data from emission sources in best practice to provide the best results.

NQA ran a sustainability project meeting where Stephen was able to provide updates on his progress and the wider team could support where necessary. NQA’s team of PAS 2060 verifiers were also on hand to assist the project.

Meeting PAS 2060 requirements

NQA has considered its UK and Ireland operations when calculating our carbon emissions, taking into account all relevant Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions. It was important that we were as inclusive and reflective as possible.

We first calculated our emissions for the calendar year 2019 and chose to go ahead with carbon neutrality following PAS 2060 a couple of years later for 2021.

The team at NQA were able to calculate our carbon footprint utilising the ISO 14064-1:2018 Standard in conjunction with the UK Government Conversion Factors.

One of the key criteria from PAS 2060 is the need for continual reduction in emissions annually. To be able to achieve this in years to follow, NQA have formed a Carbon Management Plan which set out our overarching goals, timescales, and actions on how to meet them.

Whilst lowering our absolute emissions is the priority, NQA have considered the carbon per on-site audit day delivered. This allows us to focus our incentives on our highest emitting areas and core service delivery.

In determining our chosen provider, NQA understood the requirements of PAS 2060 for procuring offsets and ensured these were met.

We have worked with the Gold Standard, a recognised and verified provider on supplying validated carbon offset credits. The project we chose to invest in is a biomass based power project in India, supporting our Indian colleague’s local community. It also has a number of benefits such as providing further resource, opportunities, and infrastructure developments in local villages. This is something very close to the hearts of our colleagues, partners, and clients in India and across the globe.

As we continue our carbon neutrality claims we look forward to working with meaningful projects that align to the ethos of the organisation.

The team at NQA have created a Qualifying Explanatory Statement to support and evidence our journey of carbon neutrality. You can find guidance on how to meet the criteria through the checklists of PAS 2060 Annex B.  

NQA will continue to repeat and update this process for each calendar year as we move forward into the future.

NQA’s Field Director and Lead Verifier Stephen Burt comments:
"The initial task of quantifying NQA UK and Ireland’s carbon emissions was daunting to say the least! Fortunately I have long experience in and commitment to all things carbon, and with the support of my colleagues the process was, whilst quite time consuming and challenging, relatively straight forward, and also very interesting.

From the offset I was very keen to ensure the process was comprehensive. This entailed not just thinking about our own direct carbon responsibilities, such as our electricity and gas consumption, fuel for cars, business travel etc, but also our indirect carbon responsibilities, which proved to be more challenging. But we were determined for our calculations to be as robust and as credible as possible and to stand up to the scrutiny of PAS2060, so we accounted for everything we possibly could, including home working, our use of sub-contract Auditors and Tutors, our commuting, our hotel stays, our waste production, and our purchases of goods and services.

As someone who’s career has been focussed on energy and environmental management and improvement, it was also extremely satisfying for me to see the carbon improvements NQA have made showing up in the data, year-on-year. The reductions in carbon which are evident through, for example, our ever increasing use of electric company cars, better use of public and shared transport, improved energy efficiency measures and reduced business travel are extremely pleasing to see. The opportunity to then offset our residual emissions through a credible mechanism and for NQA to operate as carbon neutral has also been highly satisfying.      
The main lesson I have learned throughout this exercise is to plan so that future years’ carbon data calculations are simpler to do, ie to introduce improved systems to capture the data in a quicker and simpler manner in future years

What is next for NQA?

NQA is committed to driving, developing, and demonstrating sustainable solutions in both our organisational level actions and our service offering to clients. We recognise that we are at the beginning of our sustainability journey and that there is a lot more that can be done whilst pushing ourselves in our overarching commitment to 'Never Stop Improving'.

When considering how to approach our own sustainability, NQA looked to Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) criteria as well as the United Nations Sustainability Development Goals (UNSDG’s) for inspiration. We were able to prioritise and map our most suitable goals and actions against this. NQA’s Sustainability Promise was created to step away from dated policies and provide a clear and focused action plan for our core areas in wider sustainability topics. You will be able to read through the document on our website!

Also, to firm our commitment to becoming more sustainable, we are proud to say we have joined the Pledge to Net Zero campaign. The pledge drives organisations to take accountability and action on their environmental responsibility. There are 3 commitment requirements to adhere to which cover setting and committing to targets in line with 1.5 Degree Celsius climate change scenario, publicly reporting on emissions and the targets, and finally to publish research / thought-leadership each year. 

Interested in PAS 2060 for your business?

If this is something that’s of interest to your business, there are a number of things you can do to begin your journey:

  • Have a look at our PAS 2060 Training – Understanding and Achieving Carbon Neutrality. The course is hosted by one of our Lead Verifiers and walks delegates through the key stages of the PAS 2060 standard.

  • Check out our blogs which cover a range of sustainability topics and focus points. We are often releasing new content and guidance; you can keep up to date by signing up to our InTouch newsletter.

  • Listen to our dedicated webinars hosted by a range of expertise. We have a number of webinars which are constantly expanding that cover a number of topics and focus points.  

  • Have a read through our case studies to hear how clients in your position found the experience both preparing for verification and completing it.

  • Reach out to a member of the team to discuss the next stages, you may be further along than you thought!