Our Keynote to EDF's Incoming Climate Corps Fellows

On May 23rd our Senior Consultant, Asheen Phansey, from the Boston office spoke as the keynote speaker to the Environmental Defense Fund's (EDF) Climate Corps incoming Fellows.

The Climate Corps Fellowship is a storied EDF program that brings together an arsenal of top talent, resources and expertise to help organizations meet their sustainability and energy goals. Since 2008, Climate Corps Fellows have assisted over 400 organizations in challenges involving energy efficiency, renewable energy, and energy management strategy, resulting in $1.5 billion in energy savings and 2 million megatonnes of CO2 reductions identified.

The Climate Corps Fellowship program is an example of what EDF’s president, Fred Krupp, described as “innovation that gives people new ways to solve environmental problems,” in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed. Asheen’s speech was delivered during the Fellows’ three-day intensive training program before they join nearly 100 different private, public, and nongovernmental organizations to implement these shared-value innovations.

Asheen's keynote centered on Sustainserv's motto, "Inspiring Meaningful Change," an idea critically relevant to the EDF Climate Corps Fellows who will be working within a variety of organizations on corporate sustainability.

After defining and outlining the purpose of materiality assessments, Asheen discussed examples of materiality results for several Sustainserv clients, such as the Boston-based financial services firm State Street Corporation and the Switzerland-based global chemical firm Clariant.  He stressed how each materiality process has many common, universally applicable elements, but each resulting set of material topics is unique to the firm and its industry.

On an individual level, Asheen recommends that fellows create and maintain an open dialogue with internal and external stakeholders and engage with the organization's supply chain, such as procurement, facilities, and vendors. When speaking with these stakeholders, fellows are encouraged to learn about the relevance of issues like the chain of custody of raw materials and the scorecarding and auditing of suppliers.

Asheen also recommended engaging with customers and customer-facing colleagues, such as salespeople, marketers, and customer-engagement teams. He introduced the idea of "Net Positive" as one way to include customers in a firm’s corporate responsibility metrics. Net Positive is a new movement that attempts to measure the ways a business can put more back into society, the environment, and the economy than it extracts. Asheen urged fellows to consider this bigger-picture perspective in their Climate Corps work.

Finally, Asheen discussed collaboration among a company’s peers and competitors, citing precompetitive collaborations such as the IAEG, a trade association focused on aerospace sustainability, and the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, and industry group committed to improving the social and environmental record of apparel and footwear. Both are examples of fiercely competitive organizations working together to improve the world; Asheen entreated the EDF Climate Corps Fellows, the next generation of our responsible leaders, to maintain the relationships they have formed this week to create a network of peers—even as their professional paths diverge and interrelate in diverse ways.

On the evening following Asheen’s keynote speech, Sustainserv’s Managing Partner Matthew Gardner and Consultant Heather Vickery joined Asheen in attending the EDF Climate Corps reception to hear the former EPA Administrator for the Obama Administration, Gina McCarthy, inspire the audience of EDF Climate Corps Fellows and special guests to keep their chins up and continue to progress on climate issues.

In a heartfelt and hilarious speech that could only be delivered by a former official, Gina described how states and cities are great proving grounds for innovations created by the private sector, which are then systematized into market changes at the federal level. At times of limited federal progress on issues such as climate change, Gina entreated us to focus on these innovations from companies and their surrounding regions.

Sustainserv wishes all EDF Climate Corps fellows the best in their corporate sustainability work within their respective organizations!

State Street Publishes 2017 Corporate Responsibility Report

State Street, a 225-year old global financial services and holding bank company headquartered in Boston recently published its Corporate Responsibility (CR) Report 2017. The Sustainserv team provided support for this effort, including leading the materiality assessment process and being the lead consultant developing content for the report.

Using the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Standards framework, State Street’s report provides insight into State Street’s dynamic approach to corporate responsibility and sustainable value creation. The theme of the report is “Creating Long-Term Value”. It features an updated materiality matrix covering eleven topics relevant to State Street’s sustainability impacts, its stakeholders and its long-term value creation process.

“We’re very proud to have supported such an important organization in the development of their Corporate Responsibility Report” said Matthew Gardner, Managing Partner for Sustainserv. “This was an all-hands effort that highlights our team’s strategic and creative capabilities, as well as our ability to deliver a high quality product on time and within budget.”

Sustainserv served as the reporting consultant and project manager of this report and provided conceptual and technical guidance for the project team.

The State Street CR Report 2017 is available at

For more information, please contact:
Matthew Gardner, Ph.D.
Managing Partner at Sustainserv
+1 617 330 5001 (Office)
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Seven Tips for Your CDP Climate Change Response

  1. Don’t leave questions unanswered
  2. Quantify, quantify, quantify
  3. Take a stab at Scope 3
  4. Set reduction goals
  5. Have your data verified
  6. Focus on the tougher parts of the questionnaire
  7. Involve your non-sustainability coworkers

1. Don’t leave questions unanswered
Every required question in the questionnaire is scored for Disclosure, which means that unanswered questions will receive a score of zero out of the maximum number of points available for that question or set of questions. Furthermore, if you aren’t awarded Disclosure points for a question, you won’t be eligible to receive points in the Awareness, Management, or Leadership levels. So even if the data aren’t readily obtainable or the question isn’t even applicable, we recommend that you fill in all required fields to the best of your ability. It sounds silly, but even writing why a particular question is “not applicable” to your company or industry will net you a higher score than if you leave it blank.

2. Quantify, quantify, quantify
Top CDP scorers have quantification tools in place that help them measure emissions, the corresponding reductions, and the impact of energy reduction initiatives. Such tools range from home-grown Excel spreadsheets to robust software—with all of the tradeoffs of cost, ease of use, and data quality. Whatever you use, we recommend that you make sure it meets the following criteria:
  • The key performance indicators (KPIs) that are collected are customizable
  • Data can be collected uniformly from multiple sites, regions, or departments
  • Data can be collected in different units, and reconciled
  • Cost data can be collected as a backup to the consumption metric
  • There is some built-in error-checking of the data
  • You can compare data from previous years for validation and trending

3. Take a stab at Scope 3
To improve the CDP score and the quality of disclosure, you should first evaluate all sources of your Scope 3 emissions for relevancy, since identifying sources as “relevant/not relevant” yields more points than not evaluating them.

Before you clear your calendar, note that evaluating your Scope 3 emissions isn’t nearly as involved as calculating these emissions; a straightforward assessment for relevancy is sufficient. This initial evaluation also helps to clarify which sources will be relevant for your company to report on in the future. You can mark sources that might be relevant for future reporting, e.g. business travel, as “relevant, not yet calculated” to indicate that your company intends to calculate corresponding emissions in the future.

4. Set reduction goals
CDP looks for a suite of credible, achievable, and meaningful goals for emissions reductions. These are typically based upon current levels of performance, industry/sector best practices, and reasonable actions that your company can take in the coming year(s) – keeping in mind corporate priorities and realistic scenarios. We recommend developing and discussing reduction goals; they don’t have to be “stretch” goals, they just have to be non-trivial – and actionable.

Leading scorers base their emissions reduction goals on Science-Based Targets (SBTs). Targets are considered science-based if they are in alignment with a global emissions pathway that limits global warming to under 2° C. Companies follow the rigorous SBT methodology to contextualize their emissions reduction goals to their share of the corresponding global carbon “budget,” which is allotted to them based on their size and sector. The SBT initiative offers a few different methodologies to ground reduction targets in climate science, using absolute or intensity-based calculations.

For example, we’ve helped companies such as the information management company Iron Mountain, real estate investment trust Forest City, and European logistics and supply chain management firm Panalpina to set science-based targets, and to build roadmaps as to how they’ll achieve these targets.

5. Have your data verified
The “A” scorers, in our experience, have their data verified by an independent entity. Such third-party verification lends greater legitimacy to self-reported data, which CDP awards with higher scores.

We’ve helped many companies have their data assured for carbon inventories and GRI-compliant reporting. While an external audit can be a cumbersome process, it’s a required step to reach a “Leadership”-caliber CDP grade. The best “Leadership” performers can become eligible for the A-List.

6. Focus on the tougher parts of the questionnaire
Some of the longer, more challenging sections of the questionnaire present the greatest opportunity to improve your CDP score and quality of disclosure. For example, we encourage you to prioritize the Risks and Opportunities section. Although this section may appear daunting, it’s a core component of CDP’s mission to encourage companies, investors, and cities to take urgent action on climate change. Providing comprehensive answers to this section is a critical step that organizations must take to develop robust strategies to mitigate climate change.

To identify your company’s risks and opportunities for climate action, consider how you can leverage your company’s core competence to contribute to the systemic improvements in the low-carbon economy – whether it’s in design and manufacturing, software and other technology, analysis, or financing.

For example, our client Iron Mountain, the leading information management company, identifies its severe weather-proof storage facilities as an opportunity to help their customers develop climate mitigation strategies.

7. Involve your non-sustainability coworkers
Finally, we recommend that you don’t go it alone! You know that reducing emissions across the organization requires buy-in from many of your colleagues, including IT, HR, supply chain/procurement, operations, and finance. Draw upon these same departments across your organization to help fill out the CDP questionnaire.

Working with these groups early on in your CDP filing will prime them to understand what’s getting measured, so they can help you track and improve these KPIs. We recommend that you work with a multi-stakeholder internal team to craft stronger content for your CDP filing.

Need a hand?
We’ve worked with many clients to prepare their CDP filings, and have a strong track record of improving their scores. If you’d like to discuss our helping you with your filing this summer, please reach out to our CDP expert, Heather, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Sustainserv sponsors 2018 Impact Summit

NIBSustainserv is happy to sponsor the 2018 Impact Summit, which brings together professionals and graduate students in the Boston area to explore careers and develop skills that promote social and environmental impact. Sustainserv is an international consultancy with offices in Boston and Zurich that leverages extensive experience in strategy consulting, sustainability data management, communications, and program management to help dozens of organizations around the world.

We look forward to a continued partnership with Net Impact Boston, an organization that has served to educate and build community among current and future sustainability leaders for many years, including many of us at Sustainserv. We believe that Net Impact Boston and its annual Impact Summit are well aligned with our goal of inspiring meaningful change.

While we don’t currently have any openings, we often hire interns and staff from the ranks of Boston-area graduates and young professionals. If you are interested in working in the sustainability field, please come see us at our table, and bring your resume for our file!