How to use your financial management software to enhance your business carbon footprint 

All business carbon footprints rely to some extent on an analysis of your business expenditure. In fact, some footprinting solutions rely solely on this approach (not advisable!). 

However you are measuring your footprint, the task can be made more simple and more accurate by accurately categorising your expenditure in whichever financial management you are using – Xero, QuickBooks, Sage etc. 

If you regularly use such software you will know that they come loaded with expenditure categories for use in reconciling all of your transactions – Travel & Subsistence, IT Software & Consumables etc. 

We recommend adding further breakdowns of these categories so that the data is more usable for carbon footprinting. 

We have just gone through this exercise in our own business. We use Xero so, from the main Dashboard we navigated to Accounting > Chart of Accounts and added some new accounts, as follows: 

Extra overhead accounts under ‘412 – Professional Services’: 

  • 412a – Professional Services – IT 
  • 412b – Professional Services – HR 

Extra overhead accounts under ‘463 – IT Software & Consumables’ 

  • 463a – IT software 
  • 463b – Office Consumables 
  • 463c – Small IT & Electrical Equipment 

Extra overhead accounts under ‘493 – Travel & Subsistence’: 

  • 493a – Travel – Car 
  • 493b – Travel – Train 
  • 493c – Travel – Subsistence 
  • 493d – Travel – Taxi 
  • 493e – Travel – Parking 

We will keep revising the account codes over time, to make them as precise as possible. This will streamline our footprinting process and make our business footprint more accurate, as well as giving us improved understanding of our business costs. 

Why not do the same? Check with your accountant first. 

Rethinking your coffee habits

For many of us, that fresh cup of coffee makes mornings manageable, and the last thing we want to hear is that we should be depriving ourselves of this simple pleasure. So don’t worry, we’re not going to tell you to drink less coffee, but we are going to talk about what the carbon emissions are from your cup of coffee, and how you can reduce these. 

The emissions: Poore and Nemececk (2018) estimate that one average cup of coffee is equivalent to 0.4 kg CO2e. This is roughly equal to the emissions associated with driving an average car 2km. However, these emissions vairy depending on many factors:

Certification of beans:

Not all coffee is produced equal, and some coffee can have detrimental effects on the biodiversity and deforestation. None will be perfect but certification schemes like the Rainforest AllianceFair for Life or Bird Friendly are good to look out for. Your local coffee sellers might have a direct trade agreement with producers, so it’s worth asking them about the environmental impacts of their coffee.

How do you make your coffee? 

Do you have a habit of guessing how many beans you need to grind, or overfilling your spoon with granules? Measuring out the right amount of coffee can often make for a better cup, and also means you don’t need to replenish your stock as soon.

The way you make your coffee can help reduce leftovers being thrown away. Using an AeroPress or a French press can help with this. AeroPress requires a filter, which are often thin paper sheets but reusable metal filters are also available.

Single-serve capsules are a more wasteful method of coffee preparation, with many of the capsules being tricky to recycle. There are some compostable pods available, but we advise experimenting with minimal waste techniques first. 

Experiment with different milk types

Dairy milk from cows, has a high carbon footprint. In fact, the dairy milk in your coffee will likely have a higher carbon footprint than the coffee itself. So you can easily reduce your carbon footprint by switching to alternative milks. Oat and soy milks have the lowest environmental impact. Barista-style oat milk seems to be the most popular choice for hot drinks. 

If you already drink your coffee black, you won’t have to think about any emissions from milk!

Coffee cups

Next, we need to consider drinking coffee on the move. Every year in the UK, we throw out 2.5 billion coffee cups! With less than 1% of these being recycled, it’s worth investing in a reusable coffee cup and keeping this in your work bag ready for those trips out for coffee. You could also consider prioritising time to sit inside and use a mug. 

The coffee grounds conundrum:

The final issue is what to do with the leftover coffee grounds. There are a lot of innovative projects out there. Used beans can be turned into burnable coffee logs, but the best solution for the home-user is to add them to your compost or to use them as fertiliser in your garden. Some coffee-selling businesses will participate in dedicated coffee ground recycling schemes.

We hope these suggestions help you think about your coffee habits, and how you could reduce the emissions associated with these.