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Key Practice Area - Data & Metrics - Green Metrics that Matter: Leading-edge Metrics and Goals
Key Practice Area: Data & Metrics

Green Metrics that Matter: Leading-edge Metrics and Goals

March 22, 2014

What targets are you using to set your upcoming EHS and sustainability goals? NAEM’s Leading-Edge Metrics and Programs research will provide a comprehensive benchmark of the metrics leadership companies are using to advance their resource management programs.


See how your company's EHS and sustainability goals, metrics and programs compare to your peers. This research documents how companies set their goals, which targets they have for key resource management areas and the average payback periods required for each. It also provides a series of charts that allow you to benchmark your goals and programs.

Article: Learn about how and why companies are setting aggressive targets for waste

Executive Summary: Get a snapshot of the results from the 2014 Leading-Edge Metrics and Programs research

Results: Download the full results to benchmark you company's metrics and programs. The full presentation of results answer the questions:

  • How do companies set their targets?
  • Which metrics and goals are most common overall?
  • For each category of metrics, what seem to be the leading-edge metrics?
  • How are companies funding their goals?
  • What is the average payback period for projects?


Leadership Companies Setting Aggressive Targets for Waste Reduction
March 14, 2014
By NAEM Staff

Recycling may not sound like a new idea, but it's the area where leading companies are setting the most aggressive goals, according to new NAEM research presented last week at the “Best Practices in Corporate Energy, Waste and Water Management” conference in Washington, DC.

According to the survey of 95 corporate environment, health and safety (EHS) and sustainability leaders, 48 percent of those who responded have set a target for percentage of total waste recycled, while an additional 24 percent are currently considering this goal. For many respondents, those goals went as far as zero. According to the survey, 26 percent are pursuing a zero waste-to-landfill goal and 42 percent are currently considering it.

Thomas Day, Chief Sustainability Officer with the United States Postal Service, who attended the conference, says the current focus on waste may be a sign program maturity among leadership companies.

“Many of us…have already done some pretty amazing stuff with energy reduction over the past five years or so,” he said. “Waste reduction, diversion from landfill to recycling also has financial benefit but it's a little more challenging than energy so I think it's the next big thing on the list.”

Thanks to improvements in operational efficiency and standardization of its waste hauling contracts, Mr. Day says the USPS is expected to well exceed its initial target of 50 percent diversion from landfill to recycling over the next five years.

“We believe with this we'll go well beyond 90 percent,” he said. “We think bottom line it has an impact of more than $100 million, so it's a good thing for us to do.”

The traditional challenge with waste, according to Dennis Wolcott, Global Energy Programs Manager with Parker Hannifin Corp., is that no manufacturing process is 100 percent efficient.

“Energy and water are kind of the same because you're always going to have to use them. You just want to minimize how much you have to use,” Mr. Wolcott said. “Waste is different and it's harder because there is something that comes out of the process no matter what you do.”

Mr. Wolcott said the company's EHS team is working the problem “on both ends”: reducing the materials that go into the process and identifying ways to recycle the byproducts afterwards.

In addition to showcasing program results, the conference provided a detailed look at the strategies that companies such as the USPS and Lockheed Martin have used to achieve their resource reduction goals.

For Nicole Krenner, who recently assumed the role of Sustainability Operations Excellence Manager for 3M Co., this insight into others' programs gave her new ideas for advancing the company's zero waste initiative.

Specifically, she liked the idea of creating a corporate-wide partnership with a recycling company to manage certain waste streams and to introduce kaizen-type events to focus on waste.

“It was good to learn that a lot of the other companies are in the same position as we are in terms of their aspirations and goal development,” she said. “It was good to level-set, to see what they're doing, to see what's different but a lot of what's the same.”

Mr. Day agreed that most of those who participated seemed to be making strides in reducing their environmental impacts, but that success was an ever-moving target.

“I think the challenge for all of us is that we can't rest on our laurels. We have to keep looking for the next big challenge, the next thing we need to take on,” he said.

Executive Summary

Leading-Edge Metrics and Programs

This research provides a comprehensive benchmark of the metrics leadership companies are using to advance their EHS and sustainability programs. It documents how targets are set, how they are funded and the average payback periods required. It also provides a series of charts that allow you to benchmark your goals and programs, based on six categories of metrics.

The purpose of the survey was to:

  • Identify the leading-edge targets for resource management metrics
  • Understand how companies fund their resource reduction goals
  • Establish a benchmark for the time-period for return on investment

This 25-question survey was developed by NAEM Corporate Members in partnership with NAEM Staff, and fielded in February 2014. The results are based on over 95 respondents who took the survey, including NAEM Corporate members, Conference Board Chief Environmental Officer members and attendees to NAEM’s “Best Practices in Corporate Energy, Waste and Water” conference in March 2014.

The survey questions were designed to address the following categories of metrics:

  • Greenhouse Gas Emissions
  • Energy Use
  • Waste
  • Water Use
  • Air Emissions
  • Safety

For each category of metrics, respondents were asked to describe the extent to which they were tracking specific metrics. The choices for each included:

  • Currently using
  • Currently thinking about using
  • Considered using but chose not to
  • Did not consider using
  • Previously used and discontinued
  • Previously used and achieved

Key Findings:
Looking broadly across all metrics categories, the following is a summary of key findings:

  • The most aggressive resource efficiency goals currently apply to waste, with many set at 100 percent recycled.
  • Most companies set targets at the corporate or operations level

Figure 1. Scope of Metrics Set

Figure 1. Scope of Metrics Set

  • Annual targets are most common overall, but a 5-10-year timeframe was predominantly used when setting a specific target improvement goal
  • Companies use formal commitments to achieve improvements in metrics
  • Safety, waste recycled, and energy and greenhouse gas targets are the most prevalent goal areas
  • The majority of companies empower the business units to fund their own projects for environmental or sustainability initiatives
  • For an EHS or sustainability project to receive funding, most must provide either a 0-2 or a 2-5-year payback

Figure 2. Metric Payback Period

Figure 2. Metric Payback Period

Diving into each metric category, the key findings include:


  • Site-specific safety plans were most commonly used
  • Voluntary site participation in OSHA VPP and Voluntary site attainment of OHSAS 18001 was the next most frequently used

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

  • More than 60 percent of respondents are either currently using or considering using a CO2e reductions
  • Very few are looking at CO2e reductions beyond manufacturing

Energy Use

  • Reduction in energy use and improvement in manufacturing energy efficiency are the most commonly used energy targets


  • 48 percent of respondents are currently using a total percentage waste recycled target

Water Use

  • 56 percent of respondents are using a total percent reduction in water use/consumption target

Figure 3. Water Use Targets

Air Emissions

  • Air emissions are predominately not applicable or targets are not being considered by most respondents. Respondents suggested that the Clean Air Act requirements provide sufficient guidelines

If you would like to see the full results of this benchmark, sign in and download the full results presentation. This research a unique benefit of NAEM membership. To learn more about NAEM membership, please contact us at (202) 986-6616.

Download a PDF of the Leading-Edge Metrics and Programs executive summary


If you would like to download the full results of this benchmark, sign in and download the full results presentation. This research a unique benefit of NAEM membership. To learn more about NAEM membership, please contact us at (202) 986-6616.

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