In conversation with... Richard Walker, corporate energy and environment manager.

All this week, we’re celebrating World Environment Day, showing our commitment to the green agenda, both internally, through our people and offices, and through the work we do with our clients.

In this interview we chat to Richard Walker, corporate energy and environment manager about what World Environment Day means to him, how Capita is addressing the green agenda and top tips for being environmentally friendly. 

What does your role as corporate energy and environment manager involve?

The primary part of my job is energy reduction, compliance with mandatory environmental reporting regulations, and calculating Capita’s annual carbon footprint each year. I also focus on ways of reducing the waste we produce from our offices ‒ and improving our recycling rates where we are still generating waste ‒- and on managing water consumption. I’ve headed up the energy reduction programme over the last two years, and last year at Capita we reduced our carbon footprint by 11% which is a massive achievement on everyone’s part, and one I’m very proud of.

What recent Capita environmental projects have stood out for you?

An exciting and rewarding environmental project that I’ve been involved in was the construction of a reed bed at the Fire Service College, part of Capita, to purify and re-use thousands of gallons of contaminated run-off rainwater from the fire ground and re-use for firefighting training. The reed bed is a wonderful habitat for butterflies, dragonflies, birds, newts and all sorts of wildlife, and this is a valuable environmental benefit on top of the main environmental deliverables which are to make a huge reduction in waste water going into the drainage system, and to re-use water for firefighting training instead of using mains drinking water.

What does World Environment Day mean to you?

It’s a superb annual event bringing millions of people together from over 100 countries to focus on what we can all do to change the way we use our resources and to resolve not to harm the planet so future generations can enjoy the wonders of nature and a healthy environment. 

The theme for World Environment Day 2018 is ‘Beat Plastic Pollution’; how are Capita employees coming together to address this?

The response from around Capita has been extra special this year and I’m really encouraged to see how people have responded to the challenge to reduce plastic pollution – ‘If you can’t re-use it, refuse it!’. We can all make decisions every day that will positively affect the impact Capita has on the environment – reducing business travel and using tech instead, using a keep cup for coffee (hardly any coffee cups can be recycled as they are plastic lined cardboard), and bring in our own water bottles. 1.75 million single-use plastic water cups pass through our buildings every year. I urge everyone to watch the “A Plastic Ocean” video and make concerted efforts to cut out single use plastics. With nearly 70,000 employees we have real potential to make Capita cleaner and greener.

Part of your role is to reduce energy use for Capita, how are you looking to do this?

Capita manages its energy use in buildings by heating and cooling to agreed set points, monitoring consumption and targeting waste by using energy when needed, ie, working hours only, and by investing in high tech IT equipment in server rooms that can run at higher temperatures requiring less cooling. 

A project for Capita this year is looking at the way we separate our waste – currently too much recyclable waste is contaminated because non-recyclables are put in the recycling bins. When this happens, it is treated as general waste and either incinerated or sent to landfill instead of being recycled, and our overall rates are much lower than we would want.  It’s down to everyone to improve this, and I’m working with our suppliers to ensure the recycling points are clearly labelled to common standards.

What do you think the environmental trends will be for 2019?

I think with all the press coverage and media attention, focus on cutting out plastics will be a big thing for individuals and businesses.  We should all lobby retailers to do better in the way they package products and find less damaging ways to protect them. 

What are your top tips for being environmentally friendly?

Tip 1: Cut down on plastics: use a reusable cup, water bottles, don’t use straws, switch to milk deliveries in bottles
Tip 2: Cut back on non-essential travel
Tip 3: Do some volunteering on environmental projects, e.g. beach clean-ups

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