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Bank of America Sustainability Report: GHGs Down 9%

BofA goalsBank of America cut its gross scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions by 9 percent last year, from 1,692,415 metric tons CO2e in 2011 to 1,538,495 in 2012, according to its latest corporate social responsibility report.

Taking renewable energy credits into account, scope 1 and 2 emissions fell 8.6 percent, from 1,682,105 to 1,536,365 mt CO2e – a 14 percent drop from 2010 levels.

The reduction builds on Bank of America’s previous GHG reduction of 18 percent from 2004 to 2009, and put it on track for its targeted 15 percent drop in net scope 1 and 2 emissions from 2010 to 2015.

BoA says the reduction was driven primarily through real estate consolidation and energy efficiency projects, and also through electric grids becoming less carbon intensive.

It is difficult to determine, however, how much of an actual drop in emissions the numbers reflect. The report says that in 2012, Bank of America shifted some real estate from bank to landlord control, reducing its total occupied space by 4.75 million square feet. It raised its utilization metric to 75 percent – from what, the bank doesn’t say – and cut its square footage per employee to 272, excluding retail banking centers.

The bank notes that the shift in operational control decreases transparency in utility use. This suggests to the reader that the shift has pushed some of the bank’s scope 2 energy use and emissions into the scope 3 category. But with the company only reporting its reduction in occupied space – not a percentage change in managed space – it’s difficult to see how much of its CO2 savings are from efficiency improvements, and how much from a change in accounting. The report also does not offer any of its environmental metrics relative to square footage, revenue or staff levels – only as absolute measures.

BofA scope 1 and 2

BoA did say that it has adjusted 2010 and 2011 GHG emissions, water, waste and LEED inventories to reflect changes in its portfolio and the best available data at the time of reporting. These changes have been made in accordance with the Greenhouse Gas Protocol and standard reporting methods, the company says. To a casual reader, it’s not clear if these adjustments take into account the changes in Bank of America’s real estate ownership.

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