Each year, we track several several indicators that show progress toward achieving our sustainable-operations goals. The trends revealed by this data show us where we need to stay the course and where we need to make changes. Note: MT CO2e is metric tons of carbon-dioxide equivalent.
We add up the annual electricity use of individual offices to calculate the firm's total electricity consumption. For offices that are not individually metered, we estimate use by dividing the whole building's consumption by the proportion of the building we occupy. This total does not include remote (home) office electricity use. Electricity use rose with an increase in employees and locations over the years, but has decreased since 2016 as a result of greater energy efficiency in our operations.
Every two years, we award our Carbon Footprint Challenge prize to the office with the greatest reductions in per capita CO2e emissions from the previous assessed year. Our New York headquarters office was the 2020 challenge winner, with an emissions reduction of 52 percent between 2018 and 2020. We see a positive trend toward an increasing number of offices realizing reductions.
Our total carbon footprint captures the carbon emissions of our offices in five areas: electricity consumption, heating and cooling, business travel by plane, employee commuting and office waste. The figures shown here do not include carbon offsets. In 2020, our carbon footprint went down by 32 percent – much of which can be attributed to the remote work and drastically reduced business travel that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic.
We purchased business travel offsets and renewable energy credits (RECs) to reduce the environmental impact of our business trips and office electricity use. Six of our offices purchased RECs for all their 2020 office electricity use, and all air travel through the firm was offset through Carbonfund.org.
Scope 2 includes emissions from office electricity use and heating fuel. We saw a reduction in scope 2 emissions in 2020, which may in part be a result of less use of electricity in the office due to remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Note: Scope 1 is not applicable to our operations, as the company doesn’t own office buildings, manufacturing facilities or vehicles.)
Scope 3 emissions include CO2e emissions associated with business travel, employee commuting and office waste. Significant scope 3 emissions reductions in 2020 were caused by greatly reduced business travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although emissions related to employee commuting were also reduced by the pandemic, our analysis showed a smaller-than-expected drop. Why? Perhaps our voluntary employee commuting survey only provided a partial understanding of these emissions. And some commuters may have chosen to commute by single-passenger vehicle instead of mass transit during the pandemic.
The average carbon footprint per employee is an important measure of our energy-conservation efforts. It’s also used to determine reduction targets for our path to carbon neutrality. To calculate this metric, we divide total carbon emissions by the number of employees. The data shown here does not account for carbon offsets.
The average carbon footprint per employee includes carbon offsets, which neutralize business travel emissions. A comparison with the average carbon footprint without offsets (above) makes it clear that the near-shutdown in business travel during the COVID-19 pandemic had a large impact on our carbon footprint.
This is the percentage of office products we purchase that have recycled content or other “eco features,” such as compliance with environmental certification standards like Green Seal or the Forest Stewardship Council. This metric is based on data provided by Staples, our largest office-product supplier. It does not include an assessment of supplies purchased through other suppliers. The decline in green purchasing in 2020 may have resulted from reduced use of traditional office supplies, combined with significant purchases of personal safety equipment required by the COVID-19 pandemic.
2020 Green Offices Update