Journey to Net Zero

British Antarctic Survey

The Environment Agency’s journey to net zero


Over the last 15 years the Environment Agency has achieved a 47% reduction in emissions from our direct activity. Now we are going further by incorporating all of our Scope 3 supply chain emissions (84% of total emissions) into our Net Zero reduction targets.  As a large complex organisation that builds significant flood defence infrastructure protecting hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses, the scale of this challenge is enormous.

Each year, we produce approximately 273,000 tonnes of carbon. More than half of our emissions come from construction, with the other main sources being cars, commuting, and computing.

We have committed to reducing our emissions by at least 45% and then offsetting the rest through projects that harmlessly lock away carbon while bringing added benefits to people and nature.

To do so, we involved our whole organisation, our Defra counterparts and our partners and suppliers to develop a comprehensive net zero roadmap, which we launched in 2019, outlining our strategy, commitments and the tangible actions we will take to help tackle the climate and nature crises.


Central to the development of our net zero strategy was that it should be “owned” by the whole business.

First we established detailed scope 1, 2, 3 footprints for our different business units. We then worked with individual teams, the supply chain and directors to gather their ideas on how they could  reduce emissions in their parts of the business.  Together, we developed draft SMART actions and then iterated those over a period of 6 months to arrive at an agreed action plan that all Directors have signed up to and are accountable for.

Our net zero strategy covers every aspect of the business, is fully integrated into how we do things, includes 92 director-owned actions, and outlines our comprehensive approach to delivering UK-based, nature-based carbon absorption measures to complement our emissions reductions and benefit people and wildlife.

Progress against actions is tracked quarterly and monitored by the Executive Director team. We will constantly iterate our programme to embrace the latest developments and ensure we stay on track.


The scale and difficulty of the target we have set means innovation is key to success. Our roadmap has innovation peppered throughout it in every area from the simple to the complex. 

As we have been on a carbon reduction journey for 15 years we were well placed to know what technical and cultural solutions may exist to our Net Zero goal.  However, we also knew that for some of our challenges there is currently no solution and that is where we are now collaborating with others to unlock innovations. One area we have deployed considerable research is for the offset side of our strategy.  We have been researching which habitats can deliver verified savings for us at scale, how these can deliver additional benefits and where we may need to develop additional verified codes to reflect the opportunities available to us.

We will be electrifying our large fleet early by 2023 and reducing the number of vehicles from 4000 to 2000 through innovation projects to remove the need to travel, such as remote sensing and drones rather than driving to collect field data.

With construction activity accounting for 54% of our total emissions one of our first deliverable actions was to set a new standard to use low carbon concrete as our default choice. This was implemented from Q1 this year.  We are working with our suppliers to trial Modern Methods of Construction to minimise concrete use and reduce waste.  We have already 3D printed some concrete elements of our Houghton Brook Flood Scheme.  We are also weaving innovation into “how we do things” by setting carbon budgets to run alongside financial budgets to support our approach of making carbon considerations just part of how we make regular business decisions.  The Innovation Supplement to our collaborative supplier magazine provides examples. 

Where we are now:

Whilst our Net Zero strategy only went live from April 2021, building on the significant reductions we have seen over the last 15 years, we are already seeing some very encouraging results:

  • – We’re making good progress – we’re well on track with about half of our 90+ net zero actions, need to accelerate our pace a little on others, and need a determined focus on still others – about what you would expect from an ambitious cross-organisational, long-term plan.
  • – We have worked with the Carbon Literacy Trust to develop and roll out a bespoke programme of Carbon Literacy training for all our staff and aim to be Platinum certified by the end of this year. We are currently the most accredited government department with 40% of our staff having done the training.
  • – After a huge piece of collaboration with engineers, innovators and commercial teams, we changed the minimum technical requirements for our concrete use to make low carbon concrete our default choice.  With construction making up 54% of our total emissions – and concrete being over 60% of that – this focus is critical for us.
  • – Our pension fund has also gone net zero.
  • – We’ve taken delivery of electric vans in a first wave of fleet electrification by 2025
  • – We were the first public sector body to sign up the Plant Charter at the Supply Chain Sustainability School – setting out 5 clear pledges, namely; minimum standards in procurement, engagement, awareness raising & education, measurement & reporting, and innovation.
  • – We undertook new research to inform our carbon offsetting strategy – and published it for others to use too.
  • – We’re taken steps to make our pumping (used to manage water levels including during times of flood or drought) more sustainable
  • – Later this year we will roll out carbon budgets to sit alongside financial budgets, to help us visualise and track our emissions.
  • – Work continues on the development of our offsetting strategy, with local pilots taking place across the country.

Vanessa Griffiths, Deputy Director of Sustainable Business, Dale Eynon, Director, Defra Group Fleet Services and Simon Dawes, Head of Net Zero and Circular economy within Sustainable Business will be presenting Environment Agency’s Corporate Net Zero Journey on 19 January 2023 for 1 hour in a style of “Audience with Partner” with slide presentation and extensive 1-2-1 Q&As with Mark and his team: 

14.30 – 15.30 Audience with Environment Agency

The Audience format will consist of intial 30 mins team slide presentation and latter 30 mins of 1-2-1 Q&As with Partner’s team.

The format will offer an opportunity to hear from and engage directly with company’s top management team on the details of their corporate Net Zero journey and will offer a clearer understanding of best practices and latest thinking on co-ordinating on decarbonisation, mobilising the organisation for delivery, building innovative partnerships and financing models to fuel decarbonisation, leveraging green financing solutions, integrating carbon into business decisions and corporate governance, finding and trialling suitable decarbonisation technologies, creating actionable and cost effective decarbonisation plan, showing what the end result might look like and inspiring others with their Net Zero journey.

See the timetable of the Ambassadors’ Day, 19 January 2023

If you would like to meet with Vanessa Griffiths and Environment Agency Team please register below.