Five indicators to track corporate sustainability

Tracking corporate sustainability spans multiple performance areas. We highlight five key indicators that support businesses in realising sustainability goals.

Energy consumption

In 2022 in the UK alone, businesses wasted an estimated £33.9 billion (AED156 billion) of energy, according to B2B energy transition services company, eEnergy.  Tracking energy consumption supports cost control measures, production optimisation and compliance with government regulations; as well as raising stakeholder awareness of energy usage and environmental responsibility. Consumption can be monitored in a variety of ways including the implementation of energy usage information systems and building monitors. These measure a company’s energy intensity used to produce a specific level of economic output for benchmark comparison. Energy reduction rate, meanwhile, measures the percentage by which a company reduces its energy use over time, enabling year-on-year comparison.

Greenhouse gas emissions 

Almost every business has a carbon footprint with global emissions rising to a record 36.8 billion tonnes in 2022, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). Commonly used emissions metrics include aggregate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, breakdown by specific GHG, and carbon emissions by use, i.e., facilities, travel, etc. Businesses need to examine each action they have direct control over to see where they make a difference. For example, logistics companies with large vehicle fleets can commit to a phased transition to electric vehicles. Building emissions are also a major consideration with different tracking tools such as the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager Building Emissions Calculator, readily available.

Materials usage

Tracking materials’ resources, from metals and textiles to glass and plastics, across a business operation is also part of the sustainability commitment, with a direct link to environmental impact. Lifecycle analysis and environmental product declarations are useful tools to assess the potential cradle to grave impact of a building material. Building Information Modelling programs can be utilised to evaluate the embodied energy and global warming potential of different materials. Materials maintenance should be tracked to identify resources that require minimal maintenance and can accommodate future adaptation, which helps reduce lifetime environmental impact. Businesses should also work with key suppliers to support and measure responsible sourcing.

Waste management

A basic building block for organisational sustainability, waste tracking is conducted using various metrics such as calculating the kilogramme volume of solid waste sent to landfill, the amount of waste diverted, and overall recycling rates. A waste audit is a good starting point in identifying where waste is being generated and should include evaluation of purchasing and materials management practices. Companies are also increasingly looking at implementing circular frameworks as a tool to assess and track end-to-end material flows within their operations. Circular economy metrics include sourcing considerations such as the volume of recycled or renewable content and end-of-life strategy design, covering disassembly, recoverable content, and infrastructure investment.

Water usage 

Water security is one of the UN’s 17 SDGs and companies need to monitor and successfully reduce consumption as part of their ESG commitment. Common water usage and consumption metrics include total water use, as well as tracking various water sources, such as groundwater, surface water, and municipal water. In addition, tracking water abstraction for use in irrigation, for example, as well as water stress rates and water discharge, are crucial. Businesses should conduct a water audit to identify operational inefficiencies and install water-efficient equipment and products. Other trackable measures include, for example, replacing water-cooled equipment with air-cooled alternatives and adopting a predictive maintenance model.