Benefits of becoming a Carbon Literate Organisation

An update on our position as a Carbon Literate Organisation, and a cost benefit analysis of the work required to achieve our status.


Carbon Literacy (CL) training has been rolled out to all of our staff to ensure we understand the impacts of climate change and the importance of reducing our own emissions in order to lower our organisational carbon footprint.

This training allows staff within our workplace to be more aware of the challenges and opportunities of the climate crisis as well as help increase their confidence to talk about these challenges and opportunities, whether at work, when meeting with clients, or at home.

An increase in carbon and climate awareness on a wider scale will help promote the importance of addressing the impacts of the climate crisis, now and into the future.


Alongside the training, the aim of creating an individual and group pledge within the workplace is important as it helps motivate staff to take action and develop a carbon instinct, which in turn helps SOSE as an organisation become more climate positive.

Running a programme of CL training comes with upfront costs - these include the cost of creating a bespoke SOSE-accredited course and external facilitation to deliver training to over 100 staff - which in total was approximately £19,000.

The decision to use an external delivery partner in summer 2021, instead of setting up in-house delivery despite the additional costs, was predominantly down to staff resource and capacity. 

Our externally facilitated CL training was initially delivered online in early 2022 due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, however this subsequently moved to in person, in-house delivery from April 2022.

Once each cohort of staff had received their CL training, it took a considerable amount of time to ensure everyone completed their pledges.

This extended timeframe was needed to ensure individuals understood their roles in the context of our climate impact and how they could affect change.

The final costs of the training were the Carbon Literacy Project’s assessment of each staff member’s understanding of carbon and climate impact and their pledges. 

Alongside over 100 members of staff certified we also applied to become a Bronze-accredited Carbon Literate Organisation (CLO). In total this was a cost of less than £200 per member of staff for training and certification.

Following Train-the-Trainer training in spring 2022 we can deliver our accredited course in-house to all new members of staff and have since become a Silver-accredited CLO. Future costs will include further CLO applications and certification of new staff.

In addition to this we intend to develop a new regional Carbon Literacy course that can be delivered to businesses, social enterprises and enterprising communities within the South of Scotland, so there will be associated costs with the next phase of our CL plan.

Whilst there are associated costs involved with creating, delivering, and building on the CL content, the benefits from this can really be seen throughout the organisation - from the pledges being set and delivered to the development of a ‘carbon culture’ within our working environment.

Carbon Literate Organisation

One of the main benefits of certification and accreditation with the Carbon Literacy Project is the recognition of being a Carbon Literate Organisation.

This celebrates our significant commitment to Carbon Literacy - defined as having 'An awareness of the carbon dioxide costs and impacts of everyday activities, and the ability and motivation to reduce emissions, on an individual, community and organisational basis'.

Our current Silver CLO status enhances our image and signifies to others the importance we place on our ability to influence change, both within and out with the organisation.  We can pave the way for others, especially within the region, and help educate clients when they engage with us. 

A couple of examples of the impact of Carbon Literacy include:

Achieving Bike Friendly Status

One group pledge from Cohort Eight of our CL programme in Spring 2022 read 'I will work with SOSE colleagues in Net Zero, HR and Facilities to seek agreement that SOSE commences work to achieve Cycle Friendly Employer status.'

Shortly after the CL training, this member of staff established and convened a Bicycle User Group (BUG) within SOSE, alongside other members of staff interested in cycling and cycling to work.

Empowered to take this pledge forward, the group successfully bid for £28,000 worth of externally sourced funding to install upgraded on-site infrastructure and facilities at both our main office hub’s in Selkirk and Dumfries - this included the installation of new secure bike storage, lockers, clothing dryers and wet room and changing facilities.

An application to become a Cycling Friendly Employer was successful in September 2023 when SOSE was awarded Cycle Friendly Employer Status by Cycling Scotland, which recognises workplaces for their commitment to making it easier for more people to enjoy the benefits of cycling.

This award recognised the creation and dedication of our BUG - with currently seven members of staff in this group who aim to deliver an organisation-wide cycling action plan - alongside the continued offer of a cycle-to-work salary sacrifice scheme for colleagues to access a bike for the first time or upgrade from their previous ones. This also covers accessories such as bike helmets and locks.

Impacting business travel emissions

Two good examples the impact of Carbon Literacy training has had on staff awareness relates to business travel.

In the financial year 2021-22, over 45,000 miles were claimed through business mileage expenses at an average CO2e impact of 0.299.

Following the successful rollout of CL, the year 2022-23 saw over 140,000 miles claimed through business mileage but the average CO2e impact fell to 0.283. This was due to SOSE staff utilising lower carbon emissions vehicles to cover business miles travelled.

To provide some further context SOSE started operating in April 2020, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, with a purely home working operational business model and no business miles travelled.  

Over the last few years, and as travel restrictions were lifted, this has changed to a hybrid operational business model with more staff visiting clients, attending/hosting events - as such we have seen an increase in business miles travelled. 

This change also aligns with the associated national picture of carbon emissions associated with transport during and since the COVID-19 pandemic. What is particularly important is the carbon intensity fall in those miles travelled, as staff choose lower carbon travel options.

Electric Vehicle Salary Sacrifice 

The second example was the launch of our Electric Vehicle Salary Sacrifice (EVSS) scheme in March 2023.

Off the back of a successful rollout of four fleet electric vehicles (EVs) in the Spring/Summer 2021, a decision was taken to offer SOSE staff the benefits of a salary sacrifice scheme but for electric vehicles only.  

GMP Drivercare were contracted to deliver the EVSS scheme on behalf of SOSE which has seen over 10% of employees to date (February 2024) taking advantage – this is higher than GMP’s average 7% take up rate and does not include the number of staff who own EVs out with the EVSS scheme. 


Comparing the costs and benefits directly can be difficult as not all benefits have a fixed monetary value.  After reviewing the breakdown of the costs on an individual level (under £200 per employee) and collectively, we have seen that carrying out CL and becoming a CLO has been hugely beneficial to SOSE.

Despite the upfront costs of procuring the training and external delivery, this cost benefit analysis has shown that the direct and indirect benefits of providing the training has greatly benefited the organisation. 

We are also now able to further leverage the work we have done and extract more value from the original costs as we look to roll out CL to others, which will allow them to access CL training with lower upfront costs.

Increasing confidence in talking about climate change throughout the organisation through to the realisation of some great initiatives from the pledges has shown that CL has had a positive impact on the organisation - the benefits hugely outweigh the costs.

We continue to strive forward, aspire to be a Gold-accredited CLO, and widen the opportunity for others within our region to benefit from Carbon Literacy - watch this space.

Find out more: 

Carbon Literacy Project