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GRI Cuts Electricity, Heating; Conference Emissions Rise

The Global Reporting Initiative’s electricity and heating consumption both fell in 2009/10 while conference-related emissions rose, the organization reported in its latest sustainability report.

The GRI, which sets a widely followed protocol for corporate sustainability reporting, followed the same guidelines for its own report, Paper Planes and People (pdf). The report is self-declared at application level A.

According to the report, GRI’s electricity use fell from 314.9 GJ in 2008/9 to 301.3 GJ in 2009/10, while heating consumption fell from 627.7 GJ to 446.1 GJ. Accordingly, its greenhouse gas emissions from both sources also fell.

GRI plans a global conference every two to three years, and 2009/10 was a conference year. That year saw attendance rise by more than 20 percent compared to the previous conference year, 2007/8, and total conference emissions rose by 17 percent, from 661 to 773 tons of CO2. The biggest single component in both years was air travel, which rose from 587 tons in 2007/8 to 707 tons in 2009/10.

In both 2007/8 and 2009/10, GRI offset 100 percent of conference-related emissions.

The organization said that its conference used no bottled water or plastic utensils, and paper waste was separated and recycled. Organic food was served and the venue, Amsterdam RAI, has its own sustainability policy.

The next GRI conference is scheduled for early 2013, and the organization says it hopes to limit its impacts with goals for a sustainable venue, recycled paper, and limiting travel-related emissions.

In 2009/10, overall emissions from staff air travel decreased by 13.3 percent. GRI says this is due to initiatives like using Webex and Skype to reduce the need for in-person meetings.

GRI Working Group members book their own travel and file a reimbursement to GRI. They must reveal their flight route and seat class. GRI also seeks to record information on other methods of Working Group travel, like trains and taxis.

The organization’s total paper use rose by 23 percent in 2009/10, from 4,738 to 5,821 kg – but the percentage of recycled paper also rose substantially, from 79 to 93 percent. GRI has a policy to monitor and highlight personal printing totals for its employees, and sets targets for the staff to meet.

Printed conference material accounted for much of GRI’s paper consumption, the report said, and all such material was 100 percent recyclable. GRI used 16 percent more paper for the 2010 conference compared to the previous conference.

GRI describes itself as a “relatively small organization with a big reach,” and therefore one with limited environmental impacts.

“Mostly, GRI is a big communicator,” the report explains. “This communication takes many forms; reporting guidance, events and personal appearances, publications, training, and sharing ideas with its network and media. GRI’s big impacts are about paper, planes and people.”

GRI moved to a new office in early 2009, and the building has effective energy-saving systems in place, such as movement-sensitive lighting, using energy-saving light bulbs where possible, the report says. The building’s energy bill for communal areas like the bicycle parking bay, lobby and stairways is divided proportionately among the occupants.

The heating system is partially regulated by the owner, and has a thermostat that only provides heating during office hours. Staff help reduce GRI’s impacts by switching off all equipment outside work hours.

GRI has no vehicle fleet, so its only direct emissions are office waste, the organization says. Paper, printer cartridges, and electronic equipment disposal are all recycled. Sanitary water is processed through the municipal water system.

Most GRI staff cycle or take public transportation to work, which is made easier by the organization’s location in Amsterdam. Secretariat staff are reimbursed for public transport costs, and GRI declined the use of a communal car parking bay.

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