Global Warming: What can my company do?


by WFAA Project Green

Posted on February 3, 2010 at 5:41 PM

Environmental Defense

Modeled on the "Three Rs" of "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle," our new hierarchy ranks actions on climate: the Four Cs.

  1. Conserve Energy
  2. Convert to
    Lower Carbon Energy
  3. Choose Quality Offsets
  4. Call for Action

1. Conserve Energy

The most important step your company can take to reduce its climate impact is to save energy.

The cleanest, cheapest energy is the energy you never have to use!

Simple steps save a lot

Simple operational changes in many areas — from lighting to office equipment to corporate fleets — can substantially cut electricity and fuel use. Such changes often reduce costs as well as emissions.

Investments in efficiency also can improve systems performance and increase employee comfort and morale — all while reducing global warming pollution.

The good news is that many energy efficiency opportunities cost nothing, but can cut energy bills considerably. Other efficiency upgrades require up-front investments, but usually recoup costs quickly through energy savings.

Know your starting point: Conduct an inventory

Although you can start conserving energy immediately, many companies find it helpful to begin by conducting an emissions inventory.

Measuring your company’s current energy use and greenhouse gas emissions will lay the groundwork for identifying opportunities for improvement, setting goals and measuring progress.

Efficiency options for offices

  • Install an automated energy management system
  • Install occupancy sensors to control lighting
  • Switch to energy efficient lighting
  • Activate power-saving settings on office equipment
  • Install energy management software on PCs
  • Purchase Energy Star® certified office equipment
  • Tune-up or replace inefficient heating/cooling systems


Efficiency options for vehicle fleets

  • Reduce miles driven
  • Educate employees on efficient driving strategies
  • Ensure regular maintenance and tune-ups
  • Purchase the most efficient tires available
  • Switch to more fuel-efficient vehicles


2. Convert to Lower Carbon Energy

After taking steps to conserve energy, your company's next move should be to switch from conventional electricity, generated by burning fossil fuels, to “lower carbon” power, such as:

  • wind
  • solar
  • biomass and
  • geothermal energy.


How to get green power

On-site clean energy: The best way to convert to lower carbon energy is to install on-site renewable power generation systems like solar panels or wind turbines. Benefits of such systems include:

  • long-term measurable reductions in global warming pollution,
  • a hedge against fluctuations in electricity prices and
  • a visible commitment to clean energy.

State and utility incentives, new financing options and a range of turnkey solutions have made on-site green power cost-effective for a spectrum of businesses.

Renewable energy purchases - Your company can also purchase renewable electricity from your power provider or certified Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs). Although these types of purchases don't necessarily lead to direct emissions reductions, they do help build a more robust market for green energy and demonstrate a commitment to lower carbon power.


Lower carbon fuels on the horizon

Biofuels have gotten a lot of big buzz recently. Some biofuels have great potential to reduce global warming pollution. For example, certain processes for corn-based ethanol can cut heat-trapping emissions by 10–15 percent per gallon compared to gasoline production. Work is underway to convert grasses to “cellulosic” ethanol that could reduce emissions by 70-80 percent per gallon compared to gasoline.

However, right now, knowing whether a given biofuel actually cuts global warming pollution is difficult. Most of today’s ethanol is produced using fossil fuel-intensive processes, and can actually create more global warming pollution per gallon than gasoline. Furthermore, increased demand for biofuels can strain areas stressed by dwindling water supplies and harm habitats and grasslands by converting valuable ecosystems into intensive agricultural lands (learn more).

Future industry standards for biofuels should inform fuel buyers of the true global warming emissions associated with producing and burning each fuel (its “lifecycle” carbon content). Until strong standards are in place, you can help build demand for truly lower carbon fuels by requesting verification of low carbon claims from your fuel suppliers.

3. Choose Quality Offsets

Offsets allow you to support reductions in global warming pollution that occur outside your company. Since climate change is a global phenomenon, paying for reduced emissions anywhere in the world helps solve the problem.


Make offset purchases part of your climate plan

To avoid criticisms that your company hasn't done enough to cut its own emissions and is just trying to buy its way out of the problem, offsets should be part of a complete Climate Action Plan that follows the Four Cs hierarchy and includes an emissions inventory and a .

Purchase offsets annually

While efficiency improvements and on-site renewable power result in long-term emissions reductions (and are often profitable or cost-neutral investments), carbon offsets must be purchased every year.


Buy offsets that have been verified

Another important consideration is offset quality. Because standards and guidelines within the offsets market are still developing, some offsets may not represent actual emissions reductions.

Until uniform standards are established, your company should buy only from suppliers who have verified that their offsets meet rigorous criteria.

4. Call for Action

U.S. companies are well positioned to communicate with government officials, other corporations and the general public about the importance of taking action on global warming. As your company makes progress on internal greenhouse gas management, you can increase your impact by spreading the word and calling for action from a number of stakeholders:



Call on Congress to pass an aggressive, market-based cap on U.S. global warming pollution.

By mandating a national cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gas emissions, the federal government would create one set of rules to play by. A cap-and-trade system:

  • guarantees pollution cuts,
  • levels the corporate playing field,
  • rewards innovation and
  • lowers the prices of clean technologies.

Add your company’s voice to the growing chorus of scientists, Wall Street leaders, city and state government officials and leading corporations in calling for bold federal action on global warming. In addition:

  • Lobby your state government to provide incentives for corporate reductions in energy use and investments in on-site renewable power generation;
  • Publicly support the development of a uniform standard and registry for offset projects.



Leveraging your supply chain is a powerful strategy for further reducing your own emissions. Such a strategy can also motivate change in other companies. When suppliers increase efficiency, they will reduce the costs of wasted energy — resulting in savings that could be passed on to you.

Creative thinking should reveal numerous opportunities to leverage emissions reductions from your supply chain.

To get started,

  • Ask your suppliers what they are doing to make operations more efficient and establish purchasing preferences for energy efficient suppliers;
  • Ask your fleet management company for more efficient vehicle options (Read about our GreenFleets partnership with PHH Arval);
  • Ask your power provider to increase the percentage of power generated using lower carbon sources; and
  • Tell your fuel supplier that you support unified standards for lower carbon fuels.



Your company’s success in greenhouse gas management will provide a valuable opportunity to communicate with your customers and build stronger, positive relationships.

Use your experiences in addressing global warming to create educational materials that will aid customers in adopting your best practices.

Also consider products or services that your company can provide to help customers reduce global warming pollution.