3 Strategies to Take Action on Emissions (even when you are bogged down in accounting)

Jason Denner
4 min readMar 7, 2024


As the new year unfolds, budgets are approved, and moments of optimism emerge. Corporate sustainability leaders find themselves grappling with a sense that despite the plans, enthusiasm for making a real impact is fleeting.

Don’t overdo reporting. Prioritize action.

Today, there are over 600 different sustainability reporting standards, industry initiatives, frameworks, and guidelines globally, making sustainability reporting a complex, research-intensive, and repetitive process. While these tasks focus on measuring progress towards goals and taking action for environmental benefits, many sustainability professionals face constraints in terms of time, budgets, headcounts, and internal political capital to accomplish substantial objectives. In navigating all of these tasks, sustainability leaders can find it challenging to execute on opportunities to make progress towards a truly sustainable future. Achieving success is easier when you take meaningful actions in parallel to reporting, rather than focusing solely on seemingly endless measurement.

Three ways to overcome barriers to action:

1. Buy clean energy on the grid

Changing a company’s physical infrastructure takes time. Instead, many companies are taking advantage of clean energy infrastructure that is already being developed outside of their own operations. These companies are buying renewable electricity and, more recently, renewable natural gas from the grid that serves their facilities. Purchases of renewable energy can be done with small and simple purchases or in complex multi-year contracts. Many companies start with small and simple procurements of renewable electricity from the grid as a first step to make progress on goals while they work through longer timelines needed to upgrade their own infrastructure.

2. Engage with internal programs for operational efficiency

Many companies have teams already working to improve operations in ways that are synergistic with emissions reduction. Operational excellence programs like Six-Sigma can be a valuable partner to spur action on emissions. Reducing wasted time, material, movement and energy across the organization equates to real emissions reduction benefits. For example, programs to reduce solid waste by diverting food waste from landfill to composting is a lever to reduce real world emissions. This requires creating an emissions baseline from solid waste production numbers and converting them with appropriate emissions factors. Showing real progress that is already happening inside your company can be a great stepping stone to more ambitious action.

3. Look for motivated divisions or regions to pioneer action

Some divisions or facilities in a company may have greater interest to take action than others. One case is when a facility wishes to upgrade to new energy efficient equipment but the energy prices at that site are too low to justify the capital investment from lower energy costs alone. Translating the cost of emissions reduction from a low-return capital project may show the project to be much less expensive than purchasing carbon offsets to achieve the same emissions reduction. We’ve also observed that management teams overseeing operations in Europe or California face more regulations, but they also benefit from greater government and utility incentives aimed at supporting actions on energy or emissions..

Small but tangible steps build momentum and garner support

One sustainability director at a company recently told us her story about accelerating action. The company had just finished their second year of emissions accounting and were preparing to report publicly. After multiple revisions, their emissions inventory data was still raw and had not yet been verified by a third party. Nevertheless, she inquired about purchasing renewable electricity for the company’s US operations where she felt the data was most solid. After receiving bids she noted that the cost was relatively small, and being braver than most, she went ahead and purchased Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs, also known as EACs and GOs) for all of the company’s US power consumption in the reporting year.

She was concerned how the senior management team would react, but when she presented the purchase and its benefits, they cheered! Now the company is exploring ways to enter a power purchase agreement (PPA) that can deliver consistently priced RECs for multiple years.

Many impressive emissions management programs were started with relatively small actions where there were willing partners in other departments or other regions. Waiting for complete and airtight emissions inventories can slow your company’s transition. Make progress where you can. We’ve seen this strategy pay off time and time again.

If you want to learn more about management techniques and analysis tools that we use to identify and drive action please reach out.

This article was co-authored by Catherine Greener and Jason Denner.

Catherine Greener has over 20 years of experience in sustainability, operations management, and lean manufacturing, she is a passionate and effective leader in combating climate change and food waste.

Jason Denner is a climate tech founder, engineer and analyst with over two decades of experience applying efficiency and renewable resources to reduce emissions of global corporations.



Jason Denner

Jason is a climate tech founder, engineer and analyst with over two decades of experience applying efficiency and renewable resources to reduce emissions