No greenwashing here: Why Andy Christie’s scientific background makes him the ideal person to lead on Orion’s Carbon Management Plan
Andy Christie is Director of Orion’s business management systems. He has over 36 years of experience in quality, sustainability, health and safety and business continuity. This expertise, combined with Andy’s scientific background (he holds an Earth Science degree and is a Practitioner Member of the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment), makes him the ideal person to develop and follow through on the company’s Carbon Management Plan. We caught up with Andy to learn more about Orion’s Carbon Management Plan and the measures that are already in place to reduce the business's carbon footprint.
Orion has held ISO 14001 certification for environmental management since 2017. What made you want to take things further with the company’s more recent Carbon Management Plan?
There are four main reasons why Orion’s management team is focused on reducing our carbon footprint: clients are increasingly interested in our approach, we want to do the right thing for the planet, there are long-term economic and business continuity benefits, and government legislation is beginning to demand it from businesses. I’ll explain each of those in more detail.
Most of our clients are large energy companies. They are very keen to reduce their carbon footprint, which involves vetting their suppliers. There’s hardly a tender pre-qualification process now that doesn’t include some element of how we are addressing the environment and measuring our carbon footprint. At the same time, Orion’s management team understands the importance of a balanced ecosystem and the part that employers have to play in achieving that. Thirdly, we’ve realised that reducing our reliance on fossil fuels can actually create opportunity: implementing the right measures now will give us improved financial stability in the future. And lastly, our Carbon Management Plan is beneficial in meeting the requirements of our ISO 14001 EMS certification, demonstrating our commitment to sustainability and aim for continuous environmental improvement.
We’re speaking at the beginning of 2023, and the plan was launched in 2021. What action has Orion Group taken so far?
My calculations show that Orion Group is already carbon neutral, which is a great starting point. This means we’ve taken measures to reduce our direct, fugitive and indirect CO2 emissions as much as possible, and offset the remaining emissions by investing in a carbon offset program. In 2021, we offset 143 tonnes of C02 equivalent.
Our next focus is on reducing our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions even further, and Orion’s management team is making significant financial investment in 2023 to achieve this. Many small changes are either underway or already complete, but the big hitters are the following projects:
● We’ve installed 93 photovoltaic solar cells on the roof of our HQ in Inverness
● These will be complemented by the five air source heat pumps we recently bought. Once they are installed, we’ll no longer need to use natural gas in our HQ building
● We have installed a number of EV charging points in our office car parks in Inverness and Aberdeen
● Several of Orion’s directors have switched to an electric vehicle for their company car and we’ve been promoting the benefits of that to our employees, as well as boosting the profile of our Bike To Work scheme.
Watch drone footage as work commences on the new solar panels for Orion's Inverness HQ.
People can be sceptical of companies’ environmental claims, especially in this era of greenwashing. Why should people be reassured of Orion’s commitment to real change?
Everything I've produced in the Carbon Management Plan is backed up by analysis of hard data, such as electricity, gas and travel records. All of these things are fully auditable and are subject to algorithms produced by the Government. My scientific background means I’m all about measurement and factual analysis.
Carbon offsetting has been getting some bad press recently, but my conscience is clear where that’s concerned, too. We’ve invested in the Gold Standard scheme, which is focused on progressing the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals and ensuring that projects benefit their neighbouring communities. We invested our £3,500 of credits from 2021 in three projects: the Sidrap wind farm project in Indonesia, improved cookstoves for schools and institutions in Uganda and clean water access for families in Laos.
Despite being a global company, Orion’s measures so far focus on the UK. Why is that?
We can make the most significant impact where we own buildings and have the highest concentration of staff. Two-thirds of our workforce is based in the UK, so it makes sense for us to start by reducing our UK emissions. And we own a substantial amount of office space here, whereas most of our overseas offices are rented, meaning we have less of a say in how they are powered and where that power is sourced from. As we move forward with our Carbon Management Plan and tick off the bigger items, our international impact will come under my focus.
Why is focusing on Orion Group’s environmental impact so important?
You only have to turn on the news to be reminded of the impact of climate change. Doing this is beneficial to the planet - but there are socio-economic benefits as well. For example, with less time spent commuting, our employees have more time to do things that benefit them, their families and their communities. And it’s beneficial to Orion Group in economic terms, too. When we first looked at the PV system, payback was probably over an 8-10 year period. With the current energy prices, it’s now half that.
View Andy Christie’s profile on our website.