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Reducing Your Company’s Carbon Footprint: Where to Begin?

5 Questions to Advance Meaningful Climate Action

Sustainability matters. Increasingly employees are seeking out and working for organizations that align with sustainability-focused values and demonstrate strong progress against environmental and social commitments. Many organizations have made great strides in sustainability issues over recent years, but still many others are stymied.

Your organization may have already identified the obvious, low-hanging fruit, but know there’s more that can be done that will move the needle. The problem, however, is that organizational leaders aren’t quite sure how to tackle the big challenges that await and plan effectively to move past the easier lower-hanging fruit.

According to Black & Veatch’s 2021 Corporate Sustainability, Goal Setting, and Measurement Report, more than 80 percent of companies surveyed with revenue over $250 million have set decarbonization goals, yet 25 percent are uncertain how they will meet those goals; this suggests they know that meaningful change is needed but are less sure on which technologies to plan for and implement to achieve these long-term targets.

With the U.S. government’s pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 percent by 2030, how can U.S. organizations more effectively contribute to this national decarbonization mission? Here are 5 simple questions for companies to consider:

Regardless of whether you’re attempting to address low-hanging fruit or planning to make a more meaningful impact, the first critical step is to calculate current greenhouse gas emissions. Without knowing where you stand from a carbon footprint standpoint, you won’t be able to create decarbonization goals, pledges, or a carbon emissions report (as part of your sustainability report). A carbon footprint analysis helps identify your heavy carbon emitters and you begin to understand where major improvements can be made. For many companies, the heavy greenhouse gas (GHG) contributors are in process operations, or in their supply chain.

Heavy carbon emitters within your organization have been identified; now it’s time to create an understanding of what type of commitments you want to make. You can determine if transitioning your technologies to renewables makes financial sense? Should you consider energy storage; how can you reduce the carbon footprint associated with travel and transport; how can you identify ways to reduce energy use at scale?

Simple steps can go a long way to ignite the movement and demonstrate benefits to management such as: re-evaluating business travel, offering remote work options, providing incentives for employees that drive electric vehicles (EVs)/integrating EVs into work fleets, making energy efficiency upgrades (automating lights with sensors, thermostats, data analytics to more accurately measure energy and water use), buying carbon offsets. There are many incremental steps you can take that go a long way in shifting your culture and attracting environmentally conscious talent. Once you’ve gotten that cultural shift teed up, bigger impacts can be identified through longer planning horizons that consider larger investments into the more carbon intensive components identified in your carbon footprint analysis, such as an on-site microgrid or modifications to your process operations, for example.

Climate action plans that incorporate science-based targets are a great way to create a vision and articulate how you are going to achieve your ambitious decarbonization goals. The reality is that sustainability strategies are becoming increasingly complex and require companies to take the long view over a number of years. While you may start off small, it is critical to clearly plan out more ambitious and impactful investments as early as possible. Having a clear understanding of technology maturity and cost, as well as the changing regulatory environment, companies can avoid pitfalls such as getting locked into one technology without fully understanding long-term alternatives that may be more appropriate over the lifespan of your roadmap.

The key to any successful sustainability program is demonstrating its effectiveness by reporting against key metrics and maintaining a focus on continuous improvement. Dedicated analytics resources are required to ensure programs chart meaningful progress.

As more and more organizations embrace higher standards of sustainability, it will be increasingly important for sustainability programs to stay relevant and keep pace with the expectations of your employees as well as your customers, suppliers, investors and other partners throughout your supply and value chains. The transition to a lower carbon and eventually zero carbon economy is a challenging one; but what’s critical is to identify achievable and meaningful efforts that your organization can take over multiple time horizons and chose the right technologies and initiative to create the greatest impact. Such a programmatic approach, implemented earlier, will accelerate your organization’s progress while optimizing your investments and returns.

Talk with a Black & Veatch Climate Solutions consultant to learn more about how we can partner with you to chart your climate action plan.

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