Eight Ways To Be a Climate Leader

by | Aug 27, 2019 | Stories

We have just over a decade to act in order to avoid the worst possible effects of climate change, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This summer alone, we have experienced extreme weather events that climate change is making stronger and more frequent, from relentless flooding in the Midwest to dangerous heatwaves worldwide. To reverse course, the IPCC calls for a global transformation, which begins with drastically cutting our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions globally.

Business leaders are aware of the threats that climate change poses for their operations, their supply chains, and the economy as a whole. They also recognize that climate change presents new economic opportunity – a chance to innovate technologies and create more sustainable business models. These opportunities are encouraging a growing number of businesses to set emissions reduction goals, develop strategies for carbon neutrality, and support legislation that addresses climate change.

These actions deserve recognition. The Climate Leadership Awards is a national awards program that recognizes exemplary corporate, organizational, and individual leadership in response to climate change. Presented by the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) and The Climate Registry (TCR), these awards have recognized over 170 renowned organizations, such as Microsoft, UPS, PepsiCo, Honda, Procter & Gamble, and the City and County of San Francisco.

Over the past eight years, this awards program has shone a spotlight on what it takes to be a climate leader. Based on our previous experience reviewing applications and with the help of some of our past winners, we have put together a list of the top eight lessons and tips.

Applications for the 2020 Climate Leadership Awards are being accepted until September 27, 2019. The winners will be announced during an inspiring awards ceremony at this year’s Climate Leadership Conference, which takes place from March 4-6 in Detroit, Michigan.

  1. Set a science-based target on climate change (from Ashley Allen, Climate and Land Senior Manager at Mars, Incorporated). Many companies are setting science-based targets for GHG emissions reductions. This ensures their targets are consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement – to limit global warming to well-below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursue efforts to limit warming to 1.5°C.In 2017, Mars, Incorporated set science-based targets of reducing their value chain emissions – including Scope 1, Scope 2, and Scope 3 emissions – by 27 percent by 2025 and 67 percent by 2050. Setting and progressing toward those targets were central to Mars, Inc.’s successful 2019 Climate Leadership Awards applications – they were a winner in the Organizational Leadership and Supply Chain Leadership categories.
  2. Collaborate with partners on projects that will provide mutual benefits (from Annika Swenson, Sustainability Analyst, Honda). Many companies are joining forces to address climate change in order to make a greater impact. The Climate Leadership Awards include a special category to recognize these partnerships. In 2019, American Honda Motor Co., Inc. won an Innovative Partnership Certificate for creating the Honda Environmental Leadership Program, which helps participating Honda and Acura dealerships identify and implement measurable energy-efficiency improvements.More than 800 dealerships are voluntarily participating in the program. These dealerships have collectively reduced their CO2 emissions by about 59,000 metric tons and achieved financial savings of $12.8 million. “Our Environmental Leadership Program not only helps us reduce the environmental impact of our operations, but it saves our dealers money,” says Swenson. “It’s a win-win.”
  3. Pool resources to innovate new technologies (from Noora Singh, Director, Global Sustainability, PepsiCo, Inc.). Addressing climate change requires big ideas and collaboration. For a global company, that can mean working with competitors to develop solutions that will benefit an entire industry. In 2018, PepsiCo joined the NaturAll Bottle Alliance with Danone, Nestlé Waters and bio-based materials development company, Origin Materials, to accelerate the development of innovative packaging solutions made with sustainable and renewable resources.PepsiCo also joined forces with Nestle in Thailand on sustainable and responsible cane sugar practices, and partnered with Danimer Scientific to develop biodegradable film resins. Those were some of the actions that earned PepsiCo an Organizational Leadership Award and Supply Chain Leadership Award as part of the 2019 Climate Leadership Awards.
  4. Address supply chain emissions. The next wave of climate leaders is reducing GHG emissions from the entire value chain (i.e., beyond those associated with their direct operations and electricity usage). For many organizations, Scope 3 emissions are up to four times greater than operational emissions. Engaging suppliers in emissions reduction and efficiency improvements can be an important pillar of a company’s climate strategy. Companies that are innovating and developing new strategies in their supply chains are the type of leaders we seek to acknowledge with our Supply Chain Leadership Award.
  5. Set ambitious targets and publicly report on progress. Setting ambitious, transparent and measurable climate goals can help guide organizational priorities and investment, and demonstrate to stakeholders that your organization is taking climate action seriously. The GHG Goal Setting and Goal Achievement awards are designed to recognize organizations that are setting impressive goals, publicly tracking progress through a verified GHG inventory disclosures, and achieving these goals. Science-based targets are strongly encouraged, although not required, for the Climate Leadership Awards program.
  6. Align corporate actions with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). More and more leading organizations are aligning their sustainability efforts with the UN SDGs. Among the 17 goals is a specific goal on climate action; however, many of the goals are symbiotic, such as making cities and communities sustainable and ensuring access to clean, affordable energy. Organizations focused on achieving the UN SDGs assess their strategic capabilities and work to align their sustainability and climate change efforts in ways that are transformative and help to build a stronger workforce, more resilient communities and a sustainable economy.
  7. Leverage high-quality data to measure progress and drive results (from Doug Huxley, Principal Technologist, Jacobs). At Jacobs, a publicly traded engineering and consulting firm, more than 80 percent of their Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions was from office energy use. Since the vast majority of their office space is leased without the capability for submetering, they assumed there was little they could do to document the benefits of their energy conservation programs. However, by using sophisticated data-gathering strategies, Jacobs was able to accurately and transparently account for GHG emissions and document substantial reductions through the minimization of empty office space. That helped Jacobs win an Excellence in Greenhouse Gas Management (Goal Achievement Award) in 2019. “Going forward, we believe we can reduce emissions even further by being more assertive in demanding better data, and insisting on efficient buildings and renewable energy supplies for the spaces we lease,” says Huxley.
  8. Inspire others to take action. Effective climate action will require coalitions of stakeholders that support efforts to move beyond the status quo. This includes engaging more actively with policymakers. While the actions of corporations and organizations to reduce emissions are essential if we’re going to meet climate targets, recent C2ES research has highlighted the importance of policy support for deep decarbonization. Organizations willing to work on building bipartisan support for climate action will help strengthen the foundation for comprehensive long-term solutions.

By Holden Slattery, The Climate Registry; and Nancy Meyer, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions