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UK tech sector given four-point plan to cut carbon emissions by more than 80 million tonnes

According to a report by Tech Nation, leasing renewably powered office space, switching to plant-based food when catering events and curbing business travel would significantly bring down the UK tech sector’s carbon emissions

The UK tech sector could curb the amount of carbon emissions generated by 81.8 million tonnes if it were to collectively commit to making four changes to the way it operates, claims a report by startup champions Tech Nation.  

The organisation, which is geared towards supporting the growth of UK tech startups and scaleups, has compiled a report that digs into how much the UK tech sector is contributing to climate change and what actions it can take to reduce its environmental footprint.

As detailed in its How the tech sector can achieve net zero: insights from Tech Nation and Tech Zero report, it is claimed that getting the entire UK tech sector to lease renewably powered offices, curb the amount of travel their employees do and switch to green pension funds and plant-based foods would cut the amount of carbon emissions it generates by 81.8 million tonnes.

“This is equivalent to 17.6 million petrol-powered cars driving for a year,” the organisation said, in its report.  “It would take 1.35 billion tree seedlings planted for 10 years to remove this amount of carbon.” 

According to its calculations, if UK tech firms leased green-powered office spaces, this would cut emissions by up to 1.23 million tonnes a year, while switching their staff to sustainability focused pension funds would cut emissions by 78.72 million tonnes annually.

Meanwhile, it is estimated that if all meals served at events hosted or primarily attended by tech startups and scaleups were plant-based, this would also cut emissions by 465,000 tonnes. Along similar lines, if tech firms were to reduce their employee business travel and hotel stays by half, and curb their commuting by a third, this would reduce emissions by 1.42 million tonnes each year.

The report’s publication is the latest piece of action Tech Nation has taken to encourage tech firms to play their part in the fight against climate change, and follows its founding of the Tech Zero initiative in March 2021.

Tech Zero is focused on encouraging tech firms all around the world to commit to climate action and now has 350 members, half of which have committed to reaching net zero before or by 2040.  

Tech Nation has also committed to measuring and publishing its own annual carbon emissions, which currently sit at 280 tonnes, and has embarked on a partnership with climate software firm Supercritical to identify ways it could bring its emissions down by a further 9% annually.

George Windsor, director of data and research at Tech Nation, said that he hopes the report will spur UK tech firms on to do what they can to fight climate change.

“By implementing policies on sustainable offices, green pensions, plant-based food, and reducing air and car travel, UK tech can drive down emissions enormously,” he said. “I hope that today’s report gives tech companies across the UK the confidence to begin their net-zero journey, join our Tech Zero community, and take action to do what is right for our planet.”

Sammy Fry, net-zero lead at Tech Nation, said that given how much digital technologies contribute towards greenhouse gas emissions, it should be a “global imperative” for the tech sector to find ways to decarbonise its operations.

“It has been promising to see the progress through Tech Zero, which is actively supporting 350 companies to create net zero strategies. However, much more is needed within the sector to be on a net zero pathway,” said Fry.

“Achieving net zero will not happen overnight and no company can achieve net zero on their own. It requires collective action, since it covers every aspect of a company’s value chain. The key is to make a start and not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

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