Setting a target and tracking your progress does require rolling up your sleeves and digging into your organization's operations. As with any green project, measurement is critical to setting a starting point, developing targets, and assessing progress. It starts with establishing your baseline, then identifying hotspots for emissions reductions. Selecting a methodology and target scope follows, then you set your target.
According to the CDP, "most companies use the measurement process to identify the highest impact areas or best opportunities for reduction and targets are developed from there. The other major consideration ... is the assessment of what is reasonable, aggressive and achievable and will have the highest impact from an emissions-reduction perspective." Technology offerings from companies such as CA and Microsoft have emerged of late to help organizations measure and track eco-oriented projects.
Setting targets -- particularly specific targets over a long period of time -- can be a real challenge. For example, organizations must determine whether to set absolute missions reduction targets or intensity emissions reduction targets. An absolute target is firm -- that is, X tons of CO2 in 5 years. An intensity percentage target refers to a goal to "reduce over time the ratio of emissions relative to a business metric " such as revenue, sales, or production unit.
There are pros and cons to both types of targets. Absolute targets are clear and transparent -- but can be potentially restrictive to business growth. After all, if your organization enjoys a significant growth spurt, it's probable that you'll need to use more electricity, fuel, and/or other carbon-producing resources. Thus, you might face the choice of restricting growth or breaking a pledge to cut GHG emissions.
An intensity percentage target is vague and potentially unappealing to shareholders. However, it's flexible in that it allows for growth and even a potential increase in emissions. (The CDP found that among the Global 100, absolute targets outnumber intensity targets at a nearly two-to-one ratio.)
[ Last November, IBM reported cuts in energy consumption but increased carbon emissions. ]