The path to decarbonization is a critical focus across industries today. To overcome obstacles hindering our progress, we must identify common challenges organizations face in their decarbonization journey and share successful tactics.
To gain a deeper understanding, we engaged with the Eco Champions community—a convergence of energy, sustainability, and leadership teams working together for the common goal of decarbonization. Our primary objective was to capture and assess the decarbonization landscape, which involved evaluating various strategies, diving into the most effective tactics, and examining the challenges and motivating factors behind them.
By better understanding how organizations tackle these efforts, we can provide valuable best practices, insights and focus on strategies that have proven successful by peers. Together, we can make significant strides toward a more sustainable future.
The State of Decarbonization survey was conducted to better understand and assess the maturity scale of decarbonization efforts. Written responses from the survey were transcribed as-is into this eBook to maintain authenticity.
75% of our survey responses came from energy and sustainability professionals.
44.83% of individuals responded that their organization has not yet defined decarbonization goals, while 55.17% said they have.
“We are looking to help our members reduce their carbon emissions by 50% from 2009 to 2030, and to meet the longer term internationally agreed goals thereafter.”
“Reduce absolute scope 1 & 2 GHG emissions by 80% and scope 3 GHG emissions by 50%, by 2030 from a 2019 baseline year. Net zero on or before 2040.”
“In the process of setting targets and strategy after releasing our first proper responsibility report this year for 2022.”
“We have a bold strategy to reduce our emissions by 50% in our own operations and make a substantial reduction in scope 3 as well by 2030.”
“40% reduction of Scopes 1 and 2 emissions by 2030 with 2019 emission baseline.”
“Loosely only. We struggle with the overwhelming amount of information and how to make the appropriate conversions in order to set goals.”
“To reach net-zero by 2050. To have operational emissions by 2030.”
“We have energy and recycling goals that support decarbonization, but are drafting specific decarbonization goals that will accelerate both bottom up and top down decarbonization activities.”
“Clear targets to assess and measure Scope 1, Scope 2, Scope 3 and then Action Plan to be able to monitor on an annual basis.”
“Carbon neutral electricity by 2030. This also includes electrification of our district heating system on our main campus. We recently had multiple on-site solar arrays installed, but through a purchase power agreement. A mix of the two separate items.”
“Use of green energy, reduction of energy usage by automatic sensors, reduction of plastic, awareness about reduction of plastic, plantation, digitisation of processes to eliminate paper.”
Decarbonization is more than compliance—it is also about creating lasting competitive advantage.
Long-term viability of the organization tops the list for the most important driver behind decarbonization efforts, followed by a close second of regulatory and compliance requirements.
Scope 3 emissions often include a wide range of activities and can be more complex.
16.38% said their organization calculates and reports on all applicable Scope 3 emission categories. More than half said they calculate and report Scope 1 and 2 emissions.
More than half ranked energy efficiency improvements as their top priority to meet decarbonization goals.
Less than 5% ranked Scope 3 reduction efforts and carbon offsets as a top priority.
The biggest challenge in meeting decarbonization goals for organizations across industries is access to relevant and accurate data for Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions.
Most organizations do some form of data collection, but only 6.90% said they have real-time data with automated processes.
Most organizations fall under annual data collection with manual processes.
For this section, we left the questions open ended and optional to capture best practices, tips, and ideas from respondents. While we couldn’t include all responses, we listed the most helpful responses to each question.
“Education and workforce! Business owners, homeowners, building operators need to be educated about the benefits of decarbonization, which extend beyond the bottom line of profit. It is not always profitable to pursue electrification but in the long run we need to educate people about the importance of it. We also need more people in the local workforce – HVAC trades, electricians, weatherization specialists, and sustainability professionals to move the needle on getting decarbonization projects done.”
“We need to measure and act at the same time. Barriers to large improvements need to be made (i.e., govt/utility support for electrification) and the focus of mandates and incentives to encourage the transition to occur as quickly as possible is needed. There still exists many common sense decarbonization activities that do not require extensive measurement or testing to make immediate and meaningful improvements.”
“Mindset change is the biggest change. Things are being done focusing on regulatory and reporting compliance, by most of the organisations. It is necessary that compliance should be byproduct of such initiatives.”
“Discourage consumption by heavily taxing (a) carbon & (b) advertising that encourages consumption; Decision support systems for use in all executive decisions that provide guidance on carbon v/s profit impacts; Mandatory annual GHG reduction norms for all manufacturing and services; Linking executive compensation to GHG performance; Mandatory budgeting for and reporting of sustainability performance.”
“No one is perfect, and no system is going to be bulletproof – but you have to start somewhere. Jumping in and learning as you go is better than waiting until you have 100% of the information and planning in place.”
“Set Clear Goals: Define your decarbonization goals, both short-term and long-term. Having specific targets will help you measure progress and stay focused on your objectives. Start Small, Act Now: Begin with manageable steps that you can implement immediately. Small changes can have a significant impact when multiplied across a larger scale. Embrace Innovation: Be open to adopting new technologies and approaches. Innovation plays a vital role in driving decarbonization efforts and can lead to more efficient and sustainable solutions. Lead by Example: Whether you’re an individual or a business leader, your actions can inspire others. Showcase your commitment to decarbonization through your choices and practices. Plan for Transitions: If you’re a business or community, plan for the transition to cleaner technologies and practices. Develop a roadmap that outlines how you’ll phase out carbon-intensive activities and adopt sustainable alternatives. Stay Positive and Resilient: The journey to decarbonization can be challenging, but remember that every step you take contributes to a more sustainable future. Celebrate your successes and stay resilient in the face of obstacles.”
“Assess goals annually to see if they are still feasible. Work on improving data quality of your GHG inventory. Get external stakeholders involved in your decarbonization journey. Be open to researching scientific processes that aid decarbonization.”
“Lots and Lots of webinars, newsletters, etc. EnergyCAP, Assent, Recycle newsletter, Udemy, ESG Reporting for Business, Sustainability Magazine, Carbon Accounting 101.”
“Research in the national labs on new technology and modeling resources. Organizations like RAP (Regulatory Assistance Project) looking athe policy side. State and Federal laws and policy regulations. Working directly with other building and campus operators.”
“Government Agencies: Websites of government agencies responsible for environmental and energy policy. Environmental NGOs: Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) focused on environmental issues, like the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) or Greenpeace, often provide valuable information International Organizations: Websites of international organizations like the United Nations, World Bank and IPCC.”
“Subscribe to various publications, become members of organizations advancing decarbonization, advocate and fund studies, provide grants, etc.”
“Newsletters from various organizations like ACEEE, BPA, BPI, RMI, Better Buildings Network, EPA, DOE, and building performance-specific organizations.”