Barnsley accountancy practice setting the bar for net zero

Barnsley accountancy practice, Harris+Co, has been operating in South Yorkshire for over 100 years. The firm offers a range of financial and business advisory services, including accounts, audit, tax, and payroll to clients from across the UK and abroad.

Strong community values and giving back are at the heart of the organisation. A five-year growth and CSR (corporate social responsibility) plan is in place, headed up by Office Manager, Susan Richardson. This led to several green initiatives being introduced during 2020, including:

  • Staff walking to work
  • Reducing waste
  • Increasing recycling
  • Installing EV charging points in the car park
  • Leasing electric vehicles for the corporate fleet
  • Participating in a walking challenge of 20,000 miles in 2020

In recognition of the staff walking challenge, Harris+Co received silver for Barnsley Council’s Be Well @Work Award for the best workplace initiative. And, two years later, many employees still walk and cycle into the office.

The Covid pandemic in 2020 forced us to look at how the business operates

During the 2020 Covid lockdown, Harris+Co was forced into looking at the day-to-day operations.

“Paper is a big thing in accountancy. But, during the lockdown, we accelerated our move online and introduced a portal for clients. E-signatures are now used to authorise accounts. It’s significantly reduced the amount of waste produced.”

When Susan was first introduced to the Net Zero Accelerator, she realised how much of the work had already been done.

“Some of the changes we’d introduced in lockdown were net zero activities. As we were already doing the work, it made sense to join the programme and find out more. During the first meeting, I discovered we were the only accountancy practice participating. It’s great for marketing and will make us the greenest accountancy firm in Barnsley.”

Examining the figures on carbon emissions has been interesting

One of the first activities for the Net Zero Accelerator was calculating carbon emissions. Due to the availability of data, Susan collated information from April 2021 to March 2022.

“It was a real challenge at first to gather the data about our emissions. But the figures are now uploaded, and we have a report which we’re working through. Many of our eco-friendly changes took place before 2021 so it’s a shame we couldn’t access earlier data.”

The baseline emissions report has highlighted energy consumption as a flag. LED lighting and motion sensors were installed during an office refurbishment in 2017, so old boilers are the main culprit.

Net Zero Accelerator consultant, Sarah Whale of Profit Impact, has been helping interpret the report. She’s currently waiting for an office audit to help identify further improvements. Investigation into grant funding to upgrade the boilers is also taking place.

A second consultant, Simon Shepherd of Client Marketing, is helping with marketing. Discussing ideas to promote the net zero activities taking place is one of the main focuses. One idea on the table is producing a video about staff running or cycling to work.

Harris+Co is setting a benchmark for the sector

Susan says there are still opportunities to be had as work on net zero is very much ongoing.

“We’re setting a benchmark in our sector. As accountants, we’re in touch with so many companies, and can now pass on information about net zero to our clients. With our new knowledge, staff can put businesses in touch with the right people who can help.”

Susan has found it useful to connect with other businesses on the Net Zero Accelerator. She’s met a variety of people from the owner of small coffee shop through to representatives from a big scaffolding firm. By chatting about their net zero activities, she says she’s gathered so much information.

“Anyone can do something about net zero and it’s the right time to start. There’s so much support available. You have to do it eventually, so why not now. It’s better to be at the forefront with everyone else still finding out what to do. Otherwise, you’re in the crowd lagging behind.”

Kevin Steel, Business Development Manager at The Business Village said: “It’s highly rewarding to see not just manufacturers and larger companies taking advantage of the accelerator. Harris and Co are now able to advise their clients on Net Zero issues as well as benefiting from the coaching element of the support themselves, a proverbial double whammy!”

Harris+Co is a chartered accountancy and chartered tax advisory practice in Barnsley. It employs 45 members of staff and offers a range of financial and business support services. Clients are based across the UK and abroad.

Funding for the Net Zero Accelerator at The Business Village comes from the UK Government through the UK Community Renewal Fund, South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority and Barnsley Metropolitan Council.

Net Zero Funding

To learn more about the Net Zero Accelerator at The Business Village