GlaxoSmithKline: Asking staff to play their part

Multinational pharmaceuticals giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is already covered by the EU emissions trading scheme and climate change agreements thanks to its ownership of several energy intensive manufacturing plants in the UK and other European countries.

But its large global headquarters building in Brentford, West London, also consumes enough electricity to qualify for inclusion within the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) Energy Efficiency Scheme. And that means the energy consumption of several smaller office within the UK, none of which would have qualified on their own, must also be included.

GSK, the world’s second largest pharmaceuticals group, has ambitious targets to reduce its CO2 emissions per unit of revenue by 20% between 2006 and 2010 and by 45% by 2015. To date, says climate change director Brett Fulford, it has focused its efforts on manufacturing-related emissions because they dominate. "Our office locations have not had the same amount of attention," he says.

Indeed, the emissions from GSK’s Brentford headquarters amount to less than 1% of its global direct and electricity-related emissions. Yet GSK’s position in the CRC league table will be determined by its performance in cutting energy consumption here and at its other UK offices.

It is important to the company’s reputation to come fairly high in the table, says Mr Fulford. So it is now focusing on office emissions, but overseas as well as in the UK.

GSK obtained the Carbon Trust Standard for its UK sites last summer, and has installed half-hourly electricity and gas meters throughout. That means it should score highly under the early action metrics, pushing up its ranking in early years of the scheme.

The headquarters building, with some 3,600 staff, was completed in 2001 and had fairly high levels of energy efficiency for the standards of the time. The lighting turns off if nobody is working in an area and the canal which runs by the building is used to cool a computer data centre. So a fair amount has already been done to raise the building’s energy efficiency.

GSK is now replacing some fluorescent lighting with LEDs. It is also considering using ‘hot desking’ to achieve substantial further cuts in energy consumption.

The practice of expecting staff not to have their own particular desk, but to install their computer and telephone extension at available spaces, is spreading through the company. This means that each department can use their area more effectively, allowing more people to be based in the building in total.

But that shift would only cut GSK’s CRC-covered energy consumption if it could close another UK office location and move those staff to headquarters.

Another approach, being considered but not yet approved, would be to fill the building gradually through the working day as staff arrived, leaving unoccupied parts unlit and unheated or uncooled until shortly before they needed to be brought into use. Such a scheme would rely heavily on clever building control software, but also a big change in working culture.

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