Does your organization leave a phantom footprint?

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Sarah Nicholls
Head of Global Corporate Sustainability

When companies talk about greening their supply chains, they typically focus upstream, asking suppliers to adopt and disclose the sustainability impacts feeding into the business. Reducing the carbon footprint of suppliers is a critical part of the sustainability equation, particularly for business-to-consumer companies. However, for companies whose primary business involves services, the greater impact can be downstream with clients.

That’s one of the chief insights gleaned from our 2013 Sustainability Report.

Adhering to the global targets we set last year, we have reduced greenhouse gas emissions per employee from our corporate offices by 7% since 2012 by occupying more efficient buildings as one example of a reduction initiative. While impressive, these achievements pale in comparison to the results we have influenced through our services and hands-on management of our clients’ properties.

In addition to the buildings we occupy, we manage 3.0 billion square feet of space globally for our clients and we track and disclose energy usage for those properties. In many respects, this type of energy usage could be considered our phantom footprint. Sort of a Scope 3-related category where we don’t indirectly emit GHG emissions, but we absolutely influence them by virtue of our work.

Cumulatively, we have helped U.S. clients reduce GHG emissions by an estimated 11.9 million metric tons since 2007, saving them an estimated $2.5 billion in energy costs (see page 8 of our 2013 Sustainability Report for details). We’ve accomplished these savings by developing industry-leading strategies, tools and technologies that help clients improve energy efficiency and control associated costs.

As your company thinks about its sustainability impacts, make sure to look in both directions.  What can you impact downstream? Do you have a phantom footprint?

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