What do three leading chemical, automobile, and software companies have in common? All three – Honda, BASF, and SAP – are looking to curb risks and take advantage of opportunities across their global supply chains. They’re doing so by measuring their greenhouse gas emissions—not just in their operations, but up and down their value chains.
Many other multinationals are heading in the same direction. The Carbon Disclosure Project’s (CDP) annual survey of the Global 500, released last month, reveals that seven in ten respondents measured some value chain emissions in 2011, up from about half in 2010. (Note this figure is based on WRI’s analysis of the 405 companies that submitted data to the CDP 2012 survey data.)
What’s driving the world’s biggest corporations down this path? In a nutshell: reputation, risk, and opportunity.
Facebook, a business that relies so heavily on people’s willingness to share information, took an important step recently by sharing some details of its own. The social networking company has, for the first time, released information about its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
Facebook used the GHG Protocol’s Corporate Standard for reporting emissions, categorizing them into Scope 1 (direct emissions), scope 2 (emissions from electricity consumption), and scope 3 (all other indirect emissions including, in Facebook’s case, emissions from business travel and the construction of its data centers). Measuring GHG emissions is a crucial first step for any company seeking to manage and reduce its climate change impact.
At WRI, we pride ourselves in being a mission-driven organization that defines success as bringing about positive outcomes in the world. But what about our own operations? Along with the work we do externally to achieve our mission, we have a responsibility to ensure that our own actions are the best reflection of the changes we want to see in the world.
WRI’s History of Sustainability
We recognized the need to “walk the talk” back in 1999, when we became the first NGO to complete a greenhouse gas (GHG) emission inventory and set a net-zero reduction target. At that time we also relocated to a green office, striving to incorporate our values directly into our physical surroundings.
Companies around the world are increasingly measuring and managing their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in response to drivers like consumer preference, purchaser demands, and sustainability goals. As a growing number of Asian companies look to manage their emissions, they’ll require training and resources available in their own languages and cultural contexts. To that end, the Greenhouse Gas Protocol recently held a week-long training session in Delhi, India to further build Asian companies’ capacities to measure and curb emissions.
Training participants included government representatives, business and industry council leaders, and NGOs from India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. The workshop focused on providing those in the region with tools to teach companies how to develop GHG inventories based on the GHG Protocol Corporate Standard and establish programs to measure and report their emissions. The Program Design Course provided a forum for participants to share experiences and future plans, and identified the steps involved in designing a blueprint to establish their own programs. The course drew on case studies from existing corporate GHG reporting programs like the Brazil GHG Protocol Program, the Mexico Greenhouse Gas Program, the Israel Voluntary Greenhouse Gas Registry, and the former U.S. EPA Climate Leaders Program, all of which are based on the GHG Protocol.
I recently presented at the 7th Product Carbon Footprint (PCF) World Forum Summit, a gathering of experts brought together by Berlin-based think tank Thema1 “to foster and facilitate international discussion on how to assess, reduce, and communicate the impact of goods and services on the climate.” This group historically has focused on the life cycle of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and product-level emission inventories. But this year’s theme included an additional focus: whether and how renewable energy purchases should be reflected in corporate GHG emissions calculations.
Renewable energy sources like wind and solar have no GHG emissions associated with generation and thus play a vital role in reducing overall emissions from electricity use. Many companies seek to purchase this energy and use the zero-emissions rate in calculating their indirect emissions from electricity consumption (also known as scope 2 emissions). However, several uncertainties surround how this practice should be used in GHG accounting—or whether it should be permitted at all.
At WRI, we like to say that “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.” For managing and mitigating climate change, one of the most fundamental measurements is a periodic inventory of the problem’s root cause: greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from human activities.
GHG emissions inventories are carried out at several levels, including corporate, city, and state. Measuring emissions for entire nations has its unique challenges, but it’s a critical first step for any country that wants to effectively manage its contribution to global climate change. National GHG inventories provide a baseline of data and, if regularly updated, a tracking mechanism for assessing how domestic policies impact emissions.
At an official side event to the UNFCCC Bonn Climate Change Conference this week, C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group (C40), ICLEI– Local Governments for Sustainability, the World Resources Institute (WRI), and partners released Pilot Version 1.0 of the Global Protocol for Community-Scale Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GPC). The release of the GPC Pilot Version 1.0 marks an unprecedented international consensus on the greenhouse gas (GHG) accounting and reporting framework for cities and communities. For the first time, cities around the world will be able to manage and reduce their GHG impacts through a method that’s both comprehensive and easy-to-use.
Thousands of companies have developed greenhouse gas (GHG) inventories in recent years as a crucial first step towards measuring and ultimately reducing their emissions. Agricultural emissions are a large part of many of those inventories: farming is currently responsible for between 10 and 12 percent of global GHG emissions. Globally, agricultural emissions are expected to increase by more than 50 percent by 2030, according to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
There is much uncertainty about how agricultural emissions should be reported in GHG inventories, a situation that hinders measurement and reduction efforts in the sector. To address this issue, the Greenhouse Gas Protocol is developing industry-wide best practices for reporting agricultural GHG emissions.
Let me ‘fess up. The state of the environment sometimes gets me down. But to be fair, Earth’s vital signs would drive any respectable emergency room doctor into a state of utter panic. Globally, two thirds of ecosystem services, such as freshwater, pollination, natural hazard regulation, have been degraded in the past 50 years. Annual rates of growth in yields of many basic crops have declined over the past 20 years. The effects of global climate change are already being felt around the world.
But attending the Ceres annual conference this week gave me a refreshing dose of optimism. Ceres, a coalition of investors, environmental organizations, and other public interest groups, drew together hundreds of businesses, investors, and non-profits to share innovative approaches for corporate sustainability. Here are three rays of hope from the conference.