Washington, D.C., Aug. 5, 2010 - At an NAEM conference this month in Chicago, more than 120 Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) and Sustainability professionals gathered to discuss leading-edge strategies in measuring, managing and reducing corporate greenhouse gas emissions.
The two day event, which also drew participation from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the World Resources Institute and the Carbon Disclosure Project, featured case studies by leading corporate practitioners on how to calculate, manage and reduce a company’s carbon footprint using data from across a global supply chain.
“There’s an adage that what gets measured gets managed,” said NAEM Executive Director Carol Singer Neuvelt. “What this conference reinforced is that NAEM members are leading the way by establishing systems to calculate emissions, engage their suppliers and identify priority areas for carbon reductions.”
The conference also featured a keynote presentation by Suzanne Malec-McKenna, commissioner of Chicago’s Department of Environment, who shared insights from the city’s Climate Action Plan, its aggressive strategy to reshape urban policy in service of the environment.
“What we know is that a business-as-usual scenario is not enough,” she said. “If we sit around and wait for federal action to happen, who knows when that will happen? We need to act locally.”
Through stakeholder engagement involving businesses, residents and community-based organizations, Ms. Malec-McKenna said the city has been able to spur public transit ridership and begin the process of weatherizing commercial and residential buildings.
“It’s not about the resources you have but how you leverage them,” Ms. Malec-McKenna said. “I’m really talking about the economic value of what drives your company, your city, your non-profit. If you look at some of the critical goals of your various stakeholders, I guarantee you’re going to find some mission alignment. We need to connect these groups to achieve change.”
Corporate environmental management experts from SC Johnson and Alcatel-Lucent echoed Commissioner Malec-McKenna’s call for immediate action, arguing that corporate leaders need to begin measuring and reducing their greenhouse gases today.
“We all understand that legislation will come at some time and in some form but we can’t wait for legislation to be the driver of change,” said Barry Dambach, senior director of EHS for Alcatel-Lucent. “Being a responsible corporate citizen and reducing our environmental impact should be the driver and we need to act now to reduce our energy usage and emissions.”
Mr. Dambach also stressed that because carbon footprint data ultimately will be formalized and audited similar to the way financial data is under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, companies need to begin refining their process for collecting and validating that information.
“You can’t put a big program of data collection in place and expect to have high quality data after the first round. That’s just the reality of new programs,” he said. “Companies need to get going and get familiar with it. Plus there are reduction opportunities that are waiting for them that the data will identify.”
Emily Barton, a Corporate Manager with Motorola Inc. and president of NAEM’s Chicago chapter, agreed, noting that the many companies want to wait until measurement techniques are perfected.
“People often run into the roadblock of wanting to wait until there’s a perfect greenhouse gas measurement solution,” she said. “What I learned at this event is that we just need to be getting our feet wet.”