greenhouse gas emissions“For the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change,” said U.S. President Barack Obama at his State of The Union address Tuesday night, pointing to a renewed vigor in the country's efforts to tackle climate change. But what does that mean for corporations? 

Most companies are already managing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in their operations and want to do more. But for many, progress slows as the low-hanging fruit is picked. The really big opportunities sometimes require larger investments, but budgets remain tight and energy projects compete with other sustainability issues for attention. However, as climate policy moves back on the national agenda, companies are finding that renewed attention from stakeholders will push them to go further. As they do, they should be looking at two areas:

  • Advanced efficiency initiatives: Many companies already have teams in place to manage energy efficiency.They have installed lighting occupancy sensors and raised temperature set points to save energy. However, there is value in looking further—to new financing mechanisms for efficiency investments, employee engagement initiatives, and more efficient industrial operations. To find these opportunities, companies such as Google, Boeing, Verizon, and Pfizer are working with EDF Climate Corps, which has saved each participating organization an average of US$1 million in savings.
  • “Scope 3” supplier engagement: One of the biggest levers for GHG reduction is in companies’ supply chains, where they can influence dozens to hundreds of organizations to reduce emissions through a single program. As the recent Carbon Disclosure Project supply chain report shows, this is becoming more common, and expected, especially as companies begin to use the Scope 3 value chain framework in earnest. Companies can start by conducting a hotspot assessment of GHG impacts in their value chain, and those that already have started can work with suppliers to help them develop action plans. BSR’s Supplier Carbon Performance initiative offers a turnkey approach for helping companies do so in China.

Companies should be doing both since the two drive value in different parts of the organization. But most important is that companies move forward in reducing their GHG emissions however they can. They’re sure to find the effort pays off—for the bottom line and for the planet.