Journey to net hero: Vail Williams publishes annual carbon emissions data

Releasing the company's carbon emissions is the next step in the journey to full transparency and providing a roadmap towards net zero.
March 10, 2023
  • 6 carbon tonnes in 2021/22, an increase of 6.6%
  • Voluntary disclosure of annual C02 emissions
  • Aim of net zero operations by 2030 as “right thing to do”
Property consultancy Vail Williams has voluntarily disclosed its annual carbon emissions as part of the firm’s journey to net zero by 2030.

The carbon footprint rose slightly from 150 tonnes of C02 to 160.6 tonnes in 2021/22, an increase of 6.6% and equivalent to around 160 hot air balloons.

With 174 staff, including 16 LLP Members, Vail Wiliams has 11 offices in Birmingham, Leeds, Reading, Southampton, Portsmouth, Bournemouth, Woking, Crawley, Heathrow, Brighton and London.

Each staff member is responsible for 0.93 carbon tonnes compared to 0.88 previously, according to the company’s report based on a business carbon management dashboard.

Managing Partner Matthew Samuel-Camps said: “The increase is due to a 12% rise in business travel, excluding commuting, as the UK economy opened up from the pandemic; the baseline travel and energy use in the pandemic years would have been significantly reduced already.

“Encouragingly, we have seen a reduction in energy consumption, with electricity down by 4% and gas down by 8%, and we will continue to measure, monitor and reduce carbon emissions in energy, transport, products & services and waste.

“Our stated aim is to shrink our carbon footprint by 10% year on year – having the data will highlight the progress of the company in doing that. There is no hiding place as we share the information with staff and, now, with businesses communities across our regions.”

Matthew added: “Vail Williams is not obliged by law to disclose its carbon footprint as we are well under the compliance reporting threshold.

“However, with our ethos of transparency, we as a firm wholeheartedly feel it is the right thing to do and everyone is behind us, including the younger cohort of staff coming into the business who want to align themselves with employers that are genuinely socially responsible.

“On the commercial front more and more of our clients are asking about our environmental credentials.”

Matthew said the government’s zero target of 2050 is meaningless to many people because it is beyond their working lifetimes.

“How can you encourage someone to change behaviours for something that is beyond their work life span 27 years away?

“You have to get on with it now, which is why we are looking to be carbon neutral within seven years.

“We want to encourage our team to cut down on greenhouse gases as much as possible, accepting that travel is a necessity in our business because we inspect properties, and we are on 100% green energy tariffs at several offices even though they are more costly compared to brown tariffs.

“There is also a business cost to Vail Williams in preparing all this information and analysis, but it is the right thing to do – the fact that we are not compelled to publish under legislation is therefore irrelevant.

“To clients, we like to think that our proactive approach to reduction strategies is consistent with our values as a business, giving them comfort that we are trying to do all we can.”

Environmental initiatives include a signed agreement with an energy and finance provider to offer salary sacrifice scheme to all staff, giving them the ability to buy an electric or hybrid vehicle.

Data is also being collected on how much C02 has been saved, rather than emitted, through switching to public transport for journeys.

Asked if he is encouraged by the latest annual data, Matthew said: “Yes, we are travelling more due to the nature of our work but pumping out less. It is going in right direction. I think the largest hurdle is that there is only so much a business can do – beyond that it is all down to change in each person’s behaviour.

“That is the nub of the challenge – a lot of what we want to do is educate about choices, around behavioural changes which need to take place at corporate and personal levels.

“The easiest thing we could do is write a cheque for carbon offset – we are refusing to do that until we can do no more in lowering CO2 emissions linked to climate breakdown.

“We will continue to challenge ourselves and our supply chain, and work with our clients, to achieve this.”