Environment is a key focus area within the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) and, as a signatory, we strive to embrace its core values and promote them within our sphere of influence.
As a company and a steward for our clients, we support a precautionary approach to environmental challenges, undertake initiatives to promote greater environmental responsibility and encourage the development of environmentally-friendly technologies and products.
ERM's Executive Committee, advised by the Sustainability Advisory Committee, has primary responsibility for our environmental performance, with local performance coordinated by office Sustainability Teams. ERM's Global Sustainability Policy and Our Sustainability Approach guide our environmental management.
Globally, ERM uses a software system, CloudApps, to improve the monitoring, management and reporting of our environmental, community and thought leadership data. This enables us to manage information in a more efficient, integrated, timely and user-friendly way, and improve business performance throughout the year. We have a network of focal points in every office responsible for collecting data, and supporting local management to analyze performance and set action plans for improvement.
The work we do for clients provides many opportunities to help reduce environmental impacts throughout the world. Our projects relate directly to critical issues such as GHG emissions, waste management, water and land use and biodiversity. ERM also provides both strategic and technical advice to clients on understanding, managing and measuring product sustainability and life cycle impacts.
One of our challenges as a company is to develop an approach for measuring, monitoring and reporting the sustainability impacts of our work on client projects. ERM in the U.K. is pursuing a practical framework for gathering information on how our services have contributed to the sustainability of our clients. The method for measuring sustainability impacts of ERM services will be embedded in a client questionnaire, triggered by completion of a project. If successful, this approach, which is in the early stages of development, could be adopted in other ERM businesses.
ERM Undertakes Shale Gas GHG Emissions Study for South African Government
South Africa is the leading emitter of GHG emissions in Africa and is ranked the 12th largest globally. After winning a competitive bid in 2013 for South Africa's Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), ERM's Air Quality and Climate Change team in South Africa delivered a final report to assist the DEA's understanding of the potential GHG emissions profile associated with the life cycle of shale gas extraction, production and use.
It was unclear what impact the extraction, production and use of South Africa's potential shale gas reserves could have on the country's GHG mitigation intentions. ERM’s report, peer-reviewed by the USEPA, aims to reduce this level of uncertainty by providing a balanced and independent analysis based on a review of publically available information. Findings included:
- Shale gas combustion for electricity generation is less GHG emissions intense than coal-fired electricity generation;
- The life cycle GHG emissions of shale gas are comparable to those of conventional gas sources, provided that good practices for extraction are utilized; and
- Technologies are available to aid in the mitigation of upstream fugitive emissions.
Charles Allison, Oxford, U.K.
Developing Approaches to Climate Resilience
As part of the WBCSD's Climate Change & Energy Working Group, I am helping to translate their vision for a sustainable world into an agenda for business action between now and 2020. ERM, in cooperation with another WBCSD member, is leading the development of a project to help companies understand climate risk and build resilience in their supply chains, where the current state of awareness, understanding and management of climate risks within the business is at an early stage.
The project, adopted as one of the WBCSD's Action2020 business solutions, draws on our success in helping clients across ERM's key client sectors to identify and adapt to risks posed by extreme weather and climate change in their operations and projects.
We have also applied our methodology to ERM in a pilot assessment that has mapped ERM offices affected by weather-related events, documented the business impacts and gathered best practices for continuity planning from offices across the Americas, EMEA and Asia-Pacific. The next phase of the project will involve systematic risk profiling to determine those offices with the highest potential for weather-related impacts. We will also roll out best practices to manage these impacts.
Keturah Witter, Bellingham, Washington, U.S.
Global Benefits on a Local Scale
I am passionate about sustainability; I believe we can take care of the planet, and people, as we pursue our personal interests and careers. My passion led me to be identified, within my first weeks at ERM, as a focal point for sustainability monitoring activities in the Western Division of the United States. I enjoy being in a position from which I can foster a culture of collaboration and sustainability within the Division.
As focal point, I definitely have more opportunity to implement “green” practices at my office. We have implemented food waste recycling in our building, and we recycle plastic film through Bellingham’s local facility, which makes park benches out of the recycled film. Our office partners with our local commute reduction program, Smart Trips, to help track and collect data for our daily commutes and encourage more environmentally friendly methods of transportation.
I believe ERM has a great circle of influence; we can use the culture that we live and sustain to influence our clients and projects, as well.