Our environmental impact
We aim to maximise the positive environmental impact of our business. While our greatest impact will be from our lending - supporting and promoting building practices that respect the environment and sustainable, low impact communities, we’re also working to reduce the direct environmental impact of our operations.
Every year we conduct an environmental audit and review our environmental policy. Our team regularly undergoes environmental training and we seek to reduce energy consumption, water usage and waste generation in our day-to-day running. All our electricity is sourced from renewables and we have offset our carbon emissions since we began in 1981.
• Our offices
Our eco-build offices were designed to have an airtight structure, high levels of insulation and low energy requirements. Photovoltaic panels generate electricity from the sun, windows are double glazed, filled with argon to improve heat retention in winter, and have a reflective film applied to prevent overheating in summer. A heat exchanger and high-efficiency condensing boiler is also used to assist our renewable technologies in maintain a comfortable temperature.
Wherever possible, materials used in the building are from renewable sources, recycled or low toxicity. Our sedum nature roof provides a habitat for birds and insects, and a rain water harvesting system supplies the water for our toilets, water the roof and the gardens.
• Our gardens
The gardens around our offices are designed to be edible and productive whilst being low maintenance, ecological and attractive. Crops include ‘superfood’ fruits, nuts, herbs and mushrooms. The gardens also include a woodland habitat and a wildflower meadow. Raised beds provide space for Ecology’s staff to grow their own vegetables. Part of the gardens are also open for the local community to enjoy. You can find out more about the garden design and the plants in our garden here.
• Our carbon footprint
We have reported the carbon footprint of our business operations since 2012, calculated by Small World Consulting, a team based at Lancaster University and led by footprinting expert Mike Berners-Lee.
Emissions from our business operations, commuting and supply chains in 2021 were 276.8 tonnes CO2. This is a 15% increase on our emissions in 2020 (241 tonnes, updated to reflect best available data) which had decreased considerably from the previous year due to the pandemic (338.7 tonnes in 2019). In 2021, our business activity has increased substantially, with new mortgage lending increasing by 77% and the number of savings accounts increasing by 16%.
In 2020, the pandemic led to an increase in working from home, leading to a substantial reduction in commuting emissions and business travel. We adapted our measurement of the carbon footprint to include emissions from colleagues working from home as well as commuting, which continued into 2021. As pandemic restrictions were lifted, we have implemented a hybrid working policy. We acknowledge that at present we are unable to eradicate our dependence on fossil fuel use, especially from our suppliers, commuting and business travel. We therefore have a policy to use accredited carbon offset schemes, which plant trees to absorb the amount of carbon equivalent to our total carbon footprint. Nevertheless, we do not seek to rely on offsets, and are working to reduce our actual emissions.
Our day-to-day business activities, as well as projects and new initiatives, are targeted at ultimately minimising our use of fossil fuels and hence carbon emissions. For example, technology for heating buildings is now developing at a rapid rate and we are currently reviewing low‑carbon heating options for our office. We generate around a third of our electricity through onsite solar energy generation and purchase the rest through a green tariff with Ecotricity. We have a sustainable travel plan to encourage and enable colleagues and visitors to make more active, healthy and environmentally friendly decisions for travel and transport, including eliminating unnecessary travel.
In 2016 Ecology was the first building society in the UK to be awarded the Fair Tax Mark, the world’s first independent accreditation scheme to address the issue of responsible tax. The scheme demonstrates our genuine commitment to be open and transparent about the Society’s tax affairs and pay the right amount of corporate tax at the right time and in the right place.
Ecology has a long-standing commitment to fair pay:
- Ecology became an accredited Living Wage Employer in 2015, demonstrating our continued commitment to fair pay for our colleagues. The real Living Wage is independently calculated to ensure that employees are paid at a level that reflects the cost of living. All contractors working on our premises are also paid at least the Living Wage.
- All employees (including Executive Directors) are paid in relation to their expertise, overall contribution and the general market place. Ecology has a policy that no basic salary will exceed a maximum of eight times the lowest full grade available.
Ecology Building Society was rated as an ethical Best Buy for our mortgages, ISAs and savings accounts by Ethical Consumer magazine in its product guide rankings.
Your eligible deposits with Ecology Building Society are protected up to a total of £85,000 by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, the UK's deposit guarantee scheme. Any deposits you hold above the limit are unlikely to be covered. Please click here for further information or visit www.fscs.org.uk | FSCS Information Sheet