Why sustainability metrics fail to measure achievement, and how to fix them

Read the full post at GreenBiz.

Most major corporations have adopted public reporting to communicate their performance in moving to sustainable management of their business. These reports reveal the companies’ total impact in terms of resource consumption and waste generation as well as normalized versions that attempt to convey corporate improvement in using resources and reducing wastes.

Companies strive to reduce their overall environmental footprint regardless of their overall growth, but the normalized version of the metrics are used to portray their actual efficiency. A growing company might increase its total water consumption but still claim improved efficiency by showing a reduction in water consumption per unit output. The claims based on this type of metric (overall average intensity) generally have been accepted at face value.

Closer examination, however, reveals that overall average intensity seldom, if ever, provides an accurate measure of corporate improvement in efficiency.

Why Measuring Waste GHG Emissions Matters

Read the full story in Environmental Leader.

Accounting for greenhouse gas emissions from waste isn’t as straightforward as, say, measuring those from corporate fleets. But as stakeholders increasingly demand companies reduce their carbon footprint — and firms seek zero-waste accreditation — tracking and disclosing waste GHG emissions is key.

To help companies track more accurate data on GHG emissions from their trash, waste management startup Rubicon Global has teamed up with data company Trucost.

New Waste Tracking Feature Helps Building Managers Save Money and Support a Healthy Environment

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) unveiled today a waste and materials tracking feature in its Energy Star Portfolio Manager, which is a free benchmarking and tracking tool for commercial building owners and managers. Reducing waste and reusing materials more productively through sustainable materials management over their entire lifecycles conserves resources, helps communities remain economically competitive and supports a healthy environment.

EPA’s Energy Star Portfolio Manager is already used to measure energy, water and greenhouse gas metrics in more than 450,000 U.S. buildings, representing over 40 percent of U.S. commercial space, as well as in more than 10,000 buildings in Canada. Now owners and managers using Portfolio Manager will be able to benchmark 29 types of waste across four different management metrics alongside their existing sustainability management indicators. Types of waste include building materials, glass, paper, plastics, and trash.

Currently, U.S. commercial buildings and manufacturing activities are responsible for as much as 45 percent of the 150 million tons of waste in the United States that ends up in incinerators or landfills each year. The transportation, decomposition, and burning of this waste generates greenhouse gas emissions and other air pollutants.

The addition of waste tracking is the culmination of a year-long collaboration between EPA’s Energy Star and Sustainable Materials Management programs and members of the industry to identify key performance metrics for waste and materials management.

To learn more or register for a free webinar on the new waste tracking feature: www.energystar.gov/trackwaste

To learn more about sustainable materials management: www.epa.gov/smm

Center for Corporate Climate Leadership Greenhouse Gas Inventory Guidance

The Center for Corporate Climate Leadership’s Greenhouse Gas Guidance is based on The Greenhouse Gas Protocol: A Corporate Accounting and Reporting Standard (GHG Protocol) developed by the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). Organizations are encouraged to consult the GHG Protocol for foundational guidance on GHG accounting principles, defining inventory boundaries, identifying GHG emission sources, defining and adjusting an inventory base year, and tracking emissions over time.

The Center has developed specific GHG guidance meant to extend upon the GHG Protocol, to align more closely with EPA-specific GHG calculation methodologies and emission factors, and to support the Center’s GHG management tools and its Climate Leadership Awards initiative.

The site includes:

The Road from Paris Leads to Science-based Targets

Read the full story in Environmental Leader.

The Paris agreement is a clear signal of international will to tackle climate change and governments around the world are under pressure to ramp up efforts to cut carbon emissions. Trucost analysis shows that achieving the 2°C target means that the retail sector would have to reduce its carbon emissions by an average of 76% by 2050, while the telecommunications sector would have to achieve an 89% cut by the same year.

To manage their exposure, companies need to set science-based targets that reflect the specific carbon reduction plans for countries in which they operate. This will involve reviewing existing carbon targets – especially targets based on existing available technology – to see if they are still fit for purpose. The Science Based Targets Initiative also requires that most companies quantify their Scope 3 value chain emissions, and where appropriate consider those in the target setting. While this may sound daunting, there are time saving modelling tools and techniques that are sufficiently robust for external disclosure and target setting.

Exploring Energy Efficiency: A Multi-Sector Survey on Energy Efficiency Tracking Platforms

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As inclusion of greater sustainability practices and operational policies to reduce  energy use takes root in buildings and campuses across the country, there is a growing need to better track, manage, and share the results that these projects produce. Numerous platforms and tools exist to help organizations across all sectors accomplish these goals, but there is little information examining what users prioritize and what platforms provide them across different sectors. To that end, the Sustainable Endowments Institute (SEI) sought to study how various organizations track their energy efficiency projects by conducting a multi-sector survey to assess the benefits and weaknesses of energy efficiency platforms.
SEI developed this brief report to encourage stakeholders to evaluate their own institution’s needs as well as compare against peers in their own field. By examining the five different sectors of healthcare, higher education, K-12 school systems, municipalities, and corporations, SEI sought to examine the overarching commonalities for organizations appearing to prioritize reducing energy use, reducing operational costs, and more closely aligning with institutional environmental and carbon reduction goals.

Appliance Energy Calculator

DOE’s appliance and electronic energy use calculator allows you to estimate your annual energy use and cost to operate specific products. The wattage values provided are samples only; actual wattage of products varies depending on product age and features. Enter a wattage value for your own product for the most accurate estimate.