Introduction
Manufacturing sector
Financial services sector
Education sector
Comment


Introduction

In February 2022, the Department of Energy (DOE) launched the Better Climate Challenge (BCC), encouraging domestic companies to set "clear and ambitious" greenhouse gas emission reduction goals. Since the programme's launch, over 900 organisations have partnered with the DOE to mitigate their climate impact. With the DOE's assistance, many of these groups are set to reduce their scope one and two emissions by at least 50% by 2030, in line with the Biden-Harris administration's previously stated national goal.

In response to concerns that the initiative would prompt companies to purchase emissions offsets instead of investing in long-term emissions reduction technologies and procedures, the administration specified that companies must meet their emissions targets without relying on carbon offsets. The DOE has pledged to support partners as they navigate their energy transition by offering customised technical assistance and implementation strategies to each industry sector.

This article examines industry case studies, reviewing organisations in the manufacturing, financial services and education sectors, to examine how the BCC has encouraged widespread corporate decarbonisation in the United States.

Manufacturing sector

Motorcycle manufacturing company Harley-Davidson was an inaugural BCC partner. Since joining the challenge in February 2022, the company has set targets to lower its emissions in the automotive industry. The board of directors voiced its allegiance to the company's sustainable development goals, committing to 50% reduction of scope one and two emissions by 2030, compared with the company's 2017 baseline. The board additionally committed to a 25% decrease in energy intensity by the same year.

Harley-Davidson is employing a range of strategies to meet these ambitious targets, which include transitioning its manufacturing focus to produce electric motors. Since 43% of the company's emissions are tied to the use and service of its products, this switch will be crucial for lowering the company's overall emissions levels.

Financial services sector

Realty investment firm Boston Properties (BXP) has set ambitious sustainable development targets committing to the achievement of carbon-neutral operations by 2025. In 2021, the firm set a scope one and two carbon reduction goal of 39% by 2024, compared with its 2018 baseline. Following the announcement of its partnership with the BCC in February, the firm's leadership reported additional reduction targets. These included commitments to 50% reduction in scope one and two emissions, compared with its 2018 baseline, and to 15% reduction in energy intensity over 10 years.

BXP hopes to achieve its goals through strategic investment in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified (LEED) properties. In a report published on 30 September 2022, BXP outlined its current involvement in three green projects that it expects to receive LEED certification by 2023.

Education sector

Private education institute (PEI) Bard College had an array of climate targets set prior to partnering with the DOE as a member of the BCC. In a 2017 report, the college committed to carbon neutrality by 2035, which it said it would achieve through upgrading the energy efficiency of its facilities, while investing in renewable energies to power its campus. Upon joining the BCC, Bard College set further reduction targets to be met without reliance on carbon offsets.

The board of directors has set out several goals, including committing to a 50% reduction in scope one and two emissions within 10 years and a 20% reduction in energy intensity by 2023. To address its non-renewable energy reliance, Bard College is adopting geothermal technology in new buildings in addition to developing solar and hydropower energy systems to power its campus. Bard disclosed in its 2017 report that approximately 50% of its total emissions are related to energy use, meaning the college's transition to renewable energy sources is critical for achieving its climate goals.

Comment

Membership in the Biden-Harris administration's BCC has encouraged Harley Davidson Motor Company, Boston Properties and Bard College to bolster their commitments to ambitious emission reduction targets and invest in sustainable development strategies and technologies that align with their operations given their different industries. Companies looking to decrease their carbon footprint should consider membership in the BCC and observe how prior BCC members in their industry have leveraged DOE input to make sustainable adjustments compatible with their sector.

For further information on this topic please contact Kenneth Markowitz at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP by telephone (+1 202 887 4000) or email ([email protected]). The Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP website can be accessed at www.akingump.com.

Katie Delfay, sustainability intern, assisted with the preparation of this article.