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GHG Commitments and Strategy

WRI's GHG Commitments

For the past twenty years, WRI has helped companies, cities and countries to measure and report their greenhouse gas emissions, and set targets to reduce them. Parallel to those efforts, we have been working to do the same for WRI’s operational GHG footprint.

In 2011, as the Greenhouse Gas Protocol staff and partners developed the Scope 3 Standard, we were inspired to complete our own full value- chain GHG inventory. Quantifying emissions from WRI’s full supply chain took time, but we were able to access some of the best tools and guidance to help us. (And you can too !)

Reducing emissions requires a clear goal to work towards. So WRI committed to three GHG reduction targets by 2020 for their own operations, based on 2010 emissions:

  • 50% reduction in emissions from purchased electricity (scope 2)
  • 20% reduction in business travel emissions (scope 3)
  • 20% reduction in emissions from other scope 3 sources not including business travel


Our 2010 full value-chain GHG inventory gave us a baseline – an understanding of our emissions – that we use to track progress over time.

Using this baseline, WRI’s management set our targets, seeking a balance between ambition and feasibility. In order to maximize impact, the targets focused on our two largest sources of emissions – purchased electricity (scope 2) and other indirect sources (scope 3). Business travel was singled out from scope 3 as it represents the third largest source of WRI’s emissions and is central to WRI’s current operations.

While these targets were created prior to WRI’s involvement with Science-Based Targets, we have found that our targets fall within the range of ambition recommended.


Achieving GHG reductions is not easy - WRI faces many of the same challenges seen by companies and governments around the world. By putting WRI’s research into practice, we hope to lead by taking action and also learn along the way.

Purchased Electricity

We have taken two approaches to WRI’s electricity, reducing consumption through conservation and efficiency, and purchasing renewable energy to meet our demand.

Conservation and Efficiency: Over the last 3 years, we have developed data collection processes for WRI’s Washington DC, Beijing, New Delhi, Bangalore, and Mumbai offices. Additionally, the building management for WRI’s DC office has agreed to install sub-meters in our Washington, DC office for improved energy data. We will be thinking about energy savings opportunities as we renovate that space during 2015 (see Green Office space).

Renewable Energy Purchasing: In line with WRI’s Corporate Renewable Energy Buyer's Principles, we are scoping options for renewable energy procurement that helps increase renewable energy capability. To scale up our impact, we are working with partners in the DC area to pursue options for aggregated energy contracting.

Business Travel

As a global organization, it comes as no surprise that business travel accounts for a large portion of WRI’s emissions. Over the last few years, we have tried some successful (and not so successful) approaches to managing travel.At the moment, we are working with staff to increase the efficiency of WRI's travel decisions by:

  1. Whenever possible, using virtual communication: Try to replace 2 out of every 5 trips with virtual.
  2. Checking for lower-carbon modes of transport (train, bus, hybrid car).
  3. Collaborate with colleagues and partners to reduce trips: Merge several trips into one AND/OR share travel responsibilities.
  4. When booking air travel, prioritize itineraries with direct flights.
  5. Engaging travel management from top to bottom: Staff talk to managers; managers talk to staff.

Successful Efforts:

  • Quarterly and annual internal business travel updates– where we fly, who flies the most, and how do we compare to other organizations.
  • A two-part guide for WRI staff - Part 1 is a thought-process tool for evaluating travel against other options such as virtual communication. Part 2 addresses how to book lower-emission travel.
  • Quickly compare the impacts of different travel itineraries using an air travel calculator, based off of the Greenhouse Gas Protocol’s tools.

Less Successful Efforts:

  • Limiting travel budgets – We found that the lowest emission itineraries are not always the cheapest options.
  • Focusing on travel performance on a program or office level - In many cases, WRI’s teams and offices are too large for individual staff to feel as though they can impact.

Value Chain Emissions

More than 90 percent of scope 3 (value chain) emissions, other than business travel, come from the goods and services WRI purchases and the subgrants provided to other NGOs.

  • Prior to 2013 - we only used data from an environmental input-output model to calculate our supply-chain emissions. However, without primary data, emissions data from the companies and NGOs in our value-chain, we are not getting the full picture.
  • 2013 - WRI launched two pilot programs to begin asking partners or suppliers about their own GHG emissions. More information about these pilot programs is available in our 2012 GHG Inventory and Sustainability Report.
  • 2015 - WRI joined CDP's Supply Chain Program to improve data collection from key suppliers. We are also working to engage with our partner organizations (See Sustainable Purchasing). The goal of these two projects are to increase WRI's collection of primary GHG data and to better understand the environmental performance of our suppliers and partners.

Questions about our reduction strategies? Interested in learning more about the resources we make available internally? Contact WRI’s sustainability team at

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