Carbon Costs

The world is on fire, because of climate change that is driven by industrialisation, globalisation and our modern way of living.  The core driver of climate change is increased levels of carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases (loosely termed "carbon") in the atmosphere.  Already carbon dioxide in the atmsophere is 45% higher than pre-industrial levels, with releases of greenhouse gases by people higher than at any level in the last 66 million years!

The challenge is how to reverse that trend and decarbonise society, the economy and Steenbergs.

As a business, Steenbergs bears its shared responsibility for this, doing what we can to reduce and then mitigate our carbon impact.  While our carbon footprint is merely a smidgeon of the problem, it does not mean we can duck the issue ourselves - and we don't mean to nor want to!

We would love to be able to reduce our impact to zero, but we realise that all we can do is to reduce our impact as far as we practically can.  We hate this, we want to do more, but it is not practical to bring spices and teas to Europe by sail-ship, to process everything by hand and to bring product to market by horse and cart.

Steenbergs' Targets

 Target (2016 - 2025)
 Reduction in direct carbon costs by 2025
 -85% -23%
 Reduction in carbon costs from direct energy usage by 2025
 Reduction in net carbon cost by 2025
 -100% -23%

Time now for some definitions and explanations.

We are seeking to control the marginal impact Steenbergs has on the global carbon budget rather than Steenbergs' total carbon cost.  We can only have an impact on what we can control, so these must be our primary concern.  We can seek to influence those over whom we have no influence or leverage, but no more than that - however, providing a good model of how to operate is in itself a form of soft power, something for others to relate themselves to.

We define direct carbon costs as Scope 1 (company vehicles) and Scope 2 (energy) emissions, plus some categories from Scope 3 costs (business travel, waste, water and sewerage).

Further data on how are we doing?

 Scope 1
 Scope 2
 Scope 3
 Total direct carbon emissions       
 Change (kgCO2e)
 Change 1%

For comparison, in the UK, the median household carbon cost is 17 tonnes CO2e, and the average person's carbon footprint is 10 tonnes CO2e.

The main contributor to carbon costs is Steenbergs' energy usage, so our core actions are to reduce our electricity consumption, increase the amount generated by us from solar and to convert our electricity supply to more sustainable sources.

This plan is on target, with 25% of our total energy already being supplied through solar photovoltaic cells on one of our warehouses.  Frustratingly, 2018 saw an increase in carbon emissions despite a 16% decrease in electricity consumption, because of the worse fuel consumption at Scottish Power between those two years - really, really annoying!

Through the installation of solar PV on 11 Hallikeld Close in February 2020, then switching from Scottish Power to Octopus Energy in June 2020, we should retire c. 8 tonnes CO2e, which will feed through in 2021.  That is a -90% reduction in carbon costs from energy, so our target of 100% reduction by 2025 begins to look really very feasible.

Within Scope 3, water and water treatment hovers around 120kgCO2e.  Our water use is 120 cubic metres a year, which compares favourably to an average 3 person family which uses 136 cubic metres a year.

Within Scope 3, waste generates 278 kgCO2e in a year.  None of this goes to landfill, with 62% recycled and the remainder waste-to-energy.

The balance is business travel, which we try and minimise, but we are largely at the beck-and-call of our customer base as to how much of this we need to do.  As far as possible, we minimise meetings and do no business travel by plane.

In 2016, we stopped carbon offsetting as we found that this was masking our underlying bad behaviour.  In effect, it had become a licence to pollute.  So, we have been focusing on recording our direct carbon costs and reducing these as much as we can.

During 2020, we switched the energy account at 6 Hallikeld Close from Scottish Power to Octopus Energy (100% renewable) and installed solar panels on 11 Hallikeld Close.  So, while there is still more to be done, we felt we were getting closer to the limit of our demonstrably bad environmental behaviour and should once again look at carbon offsetting.  However, rather than doing traditional carbon offsetting, we have begun a woodland project that will sequester a minimum of 12,200 tonnes of CO2, as well as having positive impacts on air quality, biodiversity, water quality, etc.

Embedded Carbon Costs - Lifecycle Analysis

We have calculated the embedded carbon costs in the packaging for all our lines plus the lifecycle carbon costs, including recycling, transport of raw materials, packaging and to customers.  The core packaging options are shown below:

 Per:Spice Jar
Spice Tin
Spice Refill
Tea Tin
Tea Carton
Embedded carbon in packaging
Total carbon footprint, including transport, disposal
Theoretical cost of carbon
 0.11p 0.09p 0.21p 0.09p 0.15p 0.04p


Although we can only directly manage the carbon for what we directly control (i.e. our marginal impact), we are under no illusions that our carbon footprint is wider than this.  It becomes a matter of definition as to what is your actual footprint.  However, effectively the further upstream you are in a chain the more embedded carbon there is in your product or service and this fact cannot be ignored, and must be disclosed to end purchasers to allow them to assess the sustainability of a product or service.

For example, a small investment firm could have employees that cycle to work, use solar power and other green energy sources and have no direct carbon or environmental footprint, but if they invest in oil futures, oil and car manufacturers and mining groups, then should we not also consider their business itself?  Or you could be a wholesaler of packed goods, outsource all you picking, packing and dispatch and use green energy and carbon offset in the developing world, but if you ignore the embedded carbon or the environmental quality in your packed goods, are you not being disingenuous?

So beware the hype, look into the detail.

That's why we are doing our best to lay bare to anyone who reads this website the good and bad in what we do.  Then it is for you to make your judgments on our behaviour.  We are far from perfect, are not certified and audited to every standard, but we are trying to do what we do with the best outcomes for environmental and social justice as we can manage.