The gym group plc, a leading operator of low-cost gyms with 821,000 members and 229 clubs at the end of December 2022, has recently announced that it has become the UK’s first carbon-neutral gym chain independently certified by The CarbonNeutral Protocol. Offering affordable 24-hour gyms across the UK, the company is committed to addressing environmental and social issues by aligning its business practices with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). The company has set a target of being a net zero business by 2045. Having achieved carbon neutrality, the gym group continues to focus on implementing low-carbon technologies, sourcing renewable energy, and engaging with suppliers and members to make a meaningful impact on global sustainability and demonstrate responsible leadership in the fitness industry.
How did it start?
The gym group’s motivation for becoming the UK’s first carbon-neutral gym chain stemmed from the increasing urgency to address climate change and the need to reduce the environmental impact of their operations. Recognising the importance of the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to 1.5°C, the company developed a sustainability strategy that outlined its responsibility towards the environment. This commitment to decarbonisation and net-zero emissions is the project catalyst, leading to the implementation of various measures to reduce their carbon footprint and actively contribute to global climate action efforts.
The main aim of the project was to become the UK’s first carbon-neutral gym chain.
- Achieve a 50% reduction in Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 2030 and full decarbonisation by 2035
- Attain a net-zero target by 2045 as approved by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi). Net zero refers to the balance achieved when the amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced by an entity is equal to the amount removed from the atmosphere, resulting in no net increase in atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations. Net zero can be likened to a fitness analogy where the calories consumed are equal to the calories burned during exercise, resulting in no net gain or loss in body weight, maintaining a stable and balanced state.
- Source 100% renewable electricity by 2025
- Engage with key suppliers to set their own emission reduction targets, aligned with climate science, by 2028
- Develop a member engagement plan by 2025 to drive the net-zero ambition
- Replace gas-fired systems with air-source heat pump (ASHP) technology, contributing to the net-zero roadmap
- Install photovoltaic solar panels at selected sites to generate local, onsite power
- Invest in low-carbon technologies and energy-saving initiatives to further reduce energy consumption
Why is this project important?
The gym group’s project to become the UK’s first carbon-neutral gym chain is of global significance as it demonstrates a proactive approach to addressing climate change and supports the UN Sustainable Development Goals. By committing to ambitious targets such as achieving net zero by 2045, the company is taking tangible steps to create a more sustainable and equitable future. In a time where climate change is causing irreversible damage to the planet, the Gym group’s efforts to align their business practices with environmental and social responsibilities make a meaningful contribution to global sustainability.
Supporting UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) represent a remarkable global commitment by 193 member countries to transform our world by 2030. These 17 interconnected goals address the most pressing challenges humanity faces today, such as eradicating poverty, combating climate change, ensuring gender equality, and improving health and education. The UN SDGs provide a comprehensive roadmap for a better future, inspiring governments, businesses, and individuals alike to work collaboratively towards building a more sustainable, just, and prosperous world for all.
The 17 Sustainable Development Goals can be classified using an Environment, Society, and Economy framework. This project supports five of the 17 goals as follows:
SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy — the gym group commits to sourcing 100% renewable electricity by 2025, reducing dependence on fossil fuels and supporting the transition to clean energy.
SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production — the gym group’s commitment to engage with key suppliers to set emission reduction targets, explore low-carbon technologies, and develop a member engagement plan by 2025 demonstrates responsible consumption and production practices whilst promoting sustainable behaviour among members.
SDG 13: Climate Action — By setting a net-zero target by 2045, investing in carbon offset projects, and implementing carbon reduction initiatives, the project actively contributes to global climate action efforts.
SDG 3: Good Health and Well-being — the gym group’s core business of promoting physical fitness contributes to the overall health and well-being of its members, supporting this crucial sustainable development goal.
SDG 9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure — the Gym group’s investment in low-carbon technologies, such as air source heat pump systems and photovoltaic solar panels, demonstrates its commitment to sustainable industrial development and innovation in addressing environmental challenges.
The resources utilised in this project encompass a range of technologies and initiatives to reduce the gym group’s carbon footprint, such as:
- Implementing air source heat pump (ASHP) technology to provide hot water, slowly eliminates the need for polluting gas-fired boilers to heat water.
- Installing photovoltaic solar panels to generate local on-site power and reduce electricity consumption.
- Eliminating all single-use plastic used in gyms.
- Engaging with their key suppliers to set their own emission reduction targets
- Developing a member engagement plan to support their net-zero ambition.
By the end of 2022, the gym group had achieved the following results in its journey towards becoming a net zero gym chain:
1 Offset their remaining carbon emissions for 2022 through investment in Gold Standard (GS) certified carbon offset projects. This industry-leading certification standard is used to verify carbon offset projects. Established in 2003 by World Wide Fund for Nature and other international NGOs it ensures that projects that reduce carbon emissions meet the highest levels of environmental integrity and contribute to sustainable development. All Gold Standard projects must deliver verified impact to a minimum of three of the SDGs.
2 Successfully implemented air source heat pump technology in 30 gyms, removing the need for gas-fired boilers.
3 Replaced 100% of lighting across all 229 gyms with energy-saving LED lights.
4 Made a full submission to the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) for net zero by 2045. The SBTi is a partnership between CDP, a global climate researcher, the United Nations Global Compact, World Resources Institute and the World Wide Fund for Nature).
The gym group’s achievement of becoming the first carbon-neutral gym chain in the UK is novel and remarkable for several reasons.
Firstly, it demonstrates that a low-cost gym operator can be environmentally responsible while still providing affordable and accessible fitness options to consumers. This sets a positive example for other companies in the fitness industry to follow and can inspire consumers to prioritise sustainability when making purchasing decisions.
Secondly, the gym group’s commitment to aligning its business practices with the UN Sustainable Development Goals sets a high standard for corporate social responsibility. By setting progressive targets such as reaching net zero by 2045, the company is demonstrating its leadership in the fitness industry and its dedication to making a meaningful impact on global sustainability.
Other businesses can use this collaborative model by taking inspiration from the gym group’s commitment to sustainability and adopting similar practices in their own operations. Companies can set ambitious targets for reducing their carbon footprint and prioritize sustainable practices in their business operations. They can also engage with suppliers and customers to promote sustainability and make a positive impact on the environment and society.
Overall, the gym group’s achievement is a positive step forward for the fitness industry and for corporate social responsibility. Other businesses can learn from this collaborative model and use it as a blueprint for making a positive impact on sustainability.
Actions you can take as a business leader and/or consumer
- Support companies that have committed to sustainability and have set ambitious targets to reduce their carbon footprint.
- Implement sustainable practices in your own business, such as reducing energy usage, sourcing renewable energy and reducing waste.
- Choose low-carbon transportation options, such as walking, cycling, or taking public transport, whenever possible.
- Reduce consumption of single-use plastics and recycle whenever possible.
- Consider the environmental impact of the products and services you use and choose those that have a lower carbon footprint.