Our Carbon Reduction Plan Q&A

27th April 2023

Across the country, AHSNs are supporting innovators from industry and the NHS to achieve net zero targets.

Aligned to this work, at the AHSN NENC, we have developed our own internal sustainability strategy that includes a Carbon Reduction Plan.

We sat down with our Sustainability Programme Manager, Hannah Gibson, to discuss our Carbon Reduction Plan, its importance and what you can do to implement a plan of your own.


Why have you created a Carbon Reduction Plan?

As an organisation, we have declared a climate emergency in line with our regional ICS and have developed our internal Carbon Reduction Plan. Having a plan is beneficial in many ways, it aligns us with our regional targets to reach Net Zero by 2030 and become the healthiest and greenest region. It also gives us a foundation on which to act and identify areas in which we can improve to reduce our own emissions, having a direct positive impact on the environment.

The AHSN Network has taken responsibility to include sustainable practice and innovation as a strategic priority. As one of the first AHSNs to develop a Carbon Reduction Plan, it allows us to share learning and guidance among our network who are looking to embark on the same journey and implement their own Carbon Reduction Plan.

By 2028, all NHS suppliers are required to have a carbon reduction plan in place for contracts worth under £5 million.


What steps have you taken to generate an organisational Carbon Footprint and Carbon Reduction Plan?

We are working with a North East-based carbon consultancy firm, Smart Carbon Ltd. Smart Carbon has developed an easy-to-use platform that amalgamates a Carbon Calculator and Reporting Dashboard. The software allows us to populate our organisational data (such as utility usage and printer paper) purchased through various metrics dependent on variables (e.g. Miles, MwH and £). Relevant emissions factors embedded within the carbon calculator give an overall Tons of Carbon Dioxide Equivalent (tCO2e) as an output. For the process of developing our first baseline report, we were fully supported by the amazing team at Smart Carbon who hosted workshops to educate us on Net Zero and the use of the platform.


How did you learn to use the platform?

Smart Carbon Ltd have held several workshops with us, using their expertise to help us understand:

  1. Our carbon emissions and how to scope this.
  2. How to use the platform.
  3. What data is required for the annual report.


What data is required?

The data needed to produce a report is entirely dependent on your organisation. For example, at the AHSN NENC, we operate a remote working policy with minimal office space, this is in use regularly but by relatively small numbers compared to the overall workforce. Nevertheless, there is some data to be reported as a result of this.

  • Buildings

Thinking about buildings as a starting point, an initial consideration is to understand the ownership of your organisation’s property e.g. owned outright or leased. This is crucial for knowing who to turn to for utility information (gas, electricity, waste, water and air conditioning). In owned buildings, it is significantly easier to source this data as it is covered by finance when bills/invoices are paid, and the company/organisation are the sole users. Leased buildings, however, operate differently. Often, companies will have a lease/tenancy agreement, at a fixed rate with all utilities included and managed by an estates department or the building owner/Landlord. This also sometimes means buildings and office spaces are shared (which is very common in the NHS and at universities) and pinpointing accurate usage from each entity is near impossible. At a fixed price, often costings are not itemised or charged per use which provides a challenge for the data collector.

Top Tips

  • Work with your finance team (they pay the lease and are most likely to have the details) to understand what space you occupy and who you can turn to for estate-related questions.
  • If you lease a whole building, ask for utility usage and cost breakdowns at the end of a financial year.
  • Understand and manage your usage and work with building owners to implement sustainable products e.g. LED lighting.


  • Business Spending

Like any organisation, there is always business-related spending such as travel or office materials. Business travel can often be confused with employee commute. Business travel is any travel that occurs to and from an activity related to your job role or on behalf of your organisation. This can also be inclusive of any overnight accommodation and food allowances. An employee commute, on the other hand, is the journey an employee takes from their home/place of residence to the organisation’s office base. Some examples of activities that you may find under Business Travel are;

  1. You attend a training course that is further in mileage from your ordinary Employee Commute. Your normal commute is from Durham to Newcastle, however, your course requires you to travel to Alnwick. This is further away than your workplace and exceeds your normal commuting mileage. Therefore, you would be able to expense those extra miles as per your company policy for a fixed rate.
  2. You travel to London via train to attend a conference as a representative of your organisation, your company has pre-paid for your rail ticket to make the journey.

These are examples of different forms of transport, and different methods of funding travel but both directly impact on the organisation through the Business Travel element.

An employee’s commute is dependent on the employee fleet and the ability to capture it accurately. Your organisation size will have the largest impact on employee commute emissions alongside the return mileage of an individual commute in their vehicle. Being able to obtain granular data around this is key as weighted emissions factors can give unrealistic data. For example, you may use an emissions factor to calculate the use of 25 unknown fuel cars, when in fact a simple questionnaire with targeted questions may tell you your organisation has 10 employees who use electric vehicles. This would have a significant direct impact on your overall carbon footprint.

At the AHSN NENC, we operate everything on a digital model from contract signing to communication. This reduces the volume of materials we purchase as an organisation and means we have a minor manufacturing footprint.

Working digitally is still not perfect, but has advantages over more traditional methods. The average carbon output of an email is around 0.2 grams of carbon. This is in comparison to a letter which is around 20-25 grams, making it an attractive, and easy organisational change. If you work digitally, there are some tips below that can help reduce the impact you make on the environment.

Top Tips

  • Delete emails once they are no longer needed
  • Attach links to documents and images rather than the document or image itself


How long does it take to collect data?

This will vary depending on the size of your organisation and the network you need to access to collect the data. For example, the AHSN NENC lease an office space with a mostly remote workforce. The data collection exercise for our organisation took approximately 6 weeks for one employee to collate.


How can I find out more information?

I’m happy to answer any more questions and provide more information as needed, just contact me on my email below.

[email protected]

Thanks for talking to us about your work on the Carbon Reduction Plan, Hannah!

You can read more about the sustainability work we’re doing in the region here.