In last year’s report, we announced measurable short-term targets for 2019 that support our overall corporate responsibility goals in three areas. Here’s our progress:
Reduce Electricity Use by 5 Percent & Increase Green Power Purchases to 25 Percent of U.S. Use
In 2019, we renewed our status as a partner in good standing with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Power Partnership for a fifth year. We met the EPA’s new green-power threshold – 25 percent, up from 10 percent the previous year – for electricity use in our U.S. offices. How? By purchasing 824,000 kWh of green power through renewable energy certificates (RECs) for our Boston, Denver, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Portland and San Francisco offices.
Our electricity-use goal for 2019 was a 5 percent reduction to build upon the previous year’s progress (in 2018, we saw a 5 percent reduction in total electricity use from 2017, despite a 16 percent growth in employee numbers). We didn’t meet our target. Staff levels increased by 4 percent, with a corresponding increase in electricity use. But there is good news. When accounting for RECs (purchased in 2020 to offset 2019 use), our per-person electricity emissions went down from 1.31 to .98 metric tons of CO2e per person – a 25 percent decrease.
Embodied Carbon: Go from R&D to Implementation with Embodied-Carbon Services on at Least 30 Projects
For the embodied-carbon community, 2019 was a seminal year. After nearly 20 years of advocacy from within the building sector about the importance of reducing the footprint of building materials like steel and concrete, the industry started paying attention to embodied carbon in a much bigger way.
For nine years, Thornton Tomasetti has led the industry in research on embodied-carbon benchmarks. We’ve amassed a unique database of embodied-carbon calculations for more than 600 of our structural design projects, which we used to help develop Beacon, an embodied-carbon assessment tool that launched in January. Our internal community of practice on the topic has grown to 100 members. And we’ve added embodied-carbon calculations and material efficiency assessment for global warming potential to our service offerings.
In 2019, we continued our long-standing sponsorship of the Carbon Leadership Forum. We contributed to their Embodied Carbon Benchmark study and co-initiated the Structural Engineers 2050 Challenge. The firm also contributed to the Embodied Carbon in Construction Calculator (EC3) tool as a sponsor and technical advisor. With awareness of embodied carbon increasing across the industry and within Thornton Tomasetti, it’s no surprise that we met our one-year target of applying embodied-carbon services to at least 30 projects in 2019. Since 2018, we have decreased the embodied carbon in our structural projects by 30 percent.
Increase Employee Awareness of Corporate Responsibility Programs to 90 Percent
Our most recent survey, answered by more than a third of employees, shows employee awareness of our corporate responsibility programs at 87 percent – up from 84 percent in 2018, and close to our 90 percent one-year target. Why don’t 13 percent of our employees know about our corporate responsibility programs? We’re not sure, but we’re going to work even harder in the coming year to inform and educate all of our people. Because we can only achieve our corporate responsibility goals with the help of all our talented people, we will continue to raise awareness of our environmental and social programs through several channels, including Spark, our social intranet, webinars and local outreach by our corporate responsibility team. In 2019, we boosted our internal communication when we updated the department name from Corporate Sustainability to Corporate Responsibility. The new brand better conveys the range of topics and programs encompassed by our work.
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Corporate Responsibility Goals
Looking Ahead: 2020 Corporate Responsibility Targets