As we prepare to say goodbye to 2018, I have been spending some time lately reflecting on everything that has happened this year. From the continued rise of renewable energy resources, to the dynamic climate action landscape, to hearing first-hand about the state of sustainability from our Coast to Coast Sustainability tour, I can say this has certainly been a memorable year. Overall, I feel a great sense of momentum towards global harmonious progress as well as optimism for normalizing sustainability heading into 2019. I hope that our employees, clients and partners can feel that as well.
Taking Forward and Backward Steps
The year is ending with a contradiction of sorts: even though more businesses are prioritizing renewables and sustainability programs, we recently learned from the Global Carbon Project that strong growth in global CO2 emissions are expected for 2018. Globally, emissions grew 1.7 percent in 2017 and is expected to reach 2.7 percent growth in 2018.
Conversely, in its Progress & Insights Report 2018, RE100 reported that 37 new companies signed up to the initiative, which brings together the most influential businesses committed to 100 percent renewable power. Altogether, there are currently 158 members and we are hopeful more will join in 2019. There are also examples of businesses setting bolder goals for emissions reductions: at the COP24 Summit in Poland earlier this year, IKEA pledged to cut carbon emissions from their production by 80 percent by 2030.
It’s apparent there is a growing gap between international goals (e.g., the 2015 Paris Agreement) for combating climate change and what countries and policy makers are doing to implement solutions. So where is the disconnect? Well, for one, coal is still playing a role in electricity generation worldwide. The World Coal Association indicated coal is still responsible for 37 percent of global electricity. ENGIE, as a whole, is working to eradicate coal from its portfolio by not only divesting from coal, but doubling down our investment in clean energy sources worldwide, and in technology to advance the climate efforts going forward.
“We have decided to stop producing electricity from coal. When we started this plan in early 2016 we were at 15 percent of our electricity being generated from coal at ENGIE. In a little more than 18 months we have already come halfway.”2017, Isabelle Kocher
Secondly, the Paris Agreement was missing a set of guidelines for how to meet the target. The goal for COP24 in Poland was to do just that, and for the most part succeeded. Many parts of the “Paris Rulebook” were solidified, but unfortunately, countries failed to agree to rules for voluntary market mechanisms. That is something that COP25 will have to tackle in 2019.
And finally, as much as businesses are striving to prioritize sustainability in their operations (driven largely by employees, customers and shareholders), political agendas are tempering their progress. I do believe that businesses are in a favorable position to start pushing state and federal governments for their support. Namely, implementing policies and regulations for carbon targets, as well as offering incentives for business that encourage innovative solutions and investments in EV infrastructure and renewable energy, making them more economically viable. We saw up close this summer the way cities are also making bold sustainable moves, like Seattle making the push to ban plastics, San Francisco implementing green building regulations, and New York focusing on tackling greenhouse gas emissions.
Fortunately, organizations like We Mean Business, with 832 company members, are working to catalyze business leadership to drive policy ambition and accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy.
The State of Sustainability in North America
Despite this global news, sustainability is alive and well in the United States. Over the next year, there are several emerging trends to watch:
- Waste Regulations: Regulations, from banning plastic bags, to distributing single-use plastics, to managing organic waste are becoming more prevalent and can extend down to the zip-code level. Multi-site businesses especially should be vigilant, agile, and educated about their waste stream to score sustainability and savings wins.
- Transportation: As EVBox, an ENGIE company, wrote in their guest blog post, electric vehicles are positioned to be one of the largest advancements in transportation since the internal combustion engine. Businesses are poised to back this growth—and realize a new revenue stream—by supporting EV infrastructure, such as on-site charging stations.
- Extreme Weather: The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned in October that the planet will reach the crucial threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius by as early as 2030, precipitating the risk of extreme drought, wildfires, and floods. Organizations must consider how climate-related risks and opportunities may evolve and their implications on business using scenario analysis, a forward-looking assessment of risk. This effort provides a response to company stakeholders and investors that are looking for greater clarity and transparency on the impacts of climate on an organization’s current and future financial performance.
Our Own Year in Review
2018 was a big year for organic growth at ENGIE Insight, the best of our 21 years since we were founded in 1996. In January we announced that Ecova was becoming ENGIE Insight and refocusing our efforts on sustainable resource management solutions for businesses. In April we received our 14th consecutive ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year Award. We have partnered with over 60 new clients globally and look forward to helping them achieve their sustainability goals. And even more important is the people delivering solutions to our clients. Our Insight team grew across our offices in Seattle, Spokane, St. Paul and Boston, and we invested in training for our people. Employees have earned certifications in Lean Six Sigma, GRI and CDP reporting, LEED, ENERGY STAR, Certified Energy Procurement (CEP), and many more, adding even greater value to our clients. With that said, I want to extend a true thank you to the ENGIE Insight team. Your passion and dedication for our mission and our clients is contagious. I am very proud and truly inspired by the results you deliver every day.
Looking Forward to 2019
Even with the steps forward and back this year, I am heading into 2019 with positivity and determination, excited to carry the momentum of 2018 into the next year. I am looking forward to continued work with the business leaders and innovators who are driving a thriving sustainability landscape in the U.S. and globally. We, at ENGIE Insight, are more passionate and optimistic than ever about our mission to support sustainable resource management, enabling businesses to grow and thrive while consuming less.
May you all have a very happy and successful New Year!