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5 Sustainability Topics Trending in 2024

5 Sustainability Topics Trending in 2024

By Chloe Woodruff

The New Year is here! We know you’re busy making plans and setting goals for 2024, and that’s why we’d like to share our insight on which trends will dominate the sustainability conversation this year.

At Verdical Group, we prioritize innovation and continuing education in order to stay on the cutting edge of the industry. While some of the topics below may look familiar and some are just emerging, our team predicts that the following trends will take the spotlight in 2024.

1. LEED v5

As a sustainability consulting firm, we expect to dedicate a lot of time to familiarizing our team with the newest iteration of the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED certification system. LEED v5 was announced in October 2023, nearly five years after the previous version, LEED v4.1, launched in January 2019. LEED v5 will offer a restructured framework that focuses on reducing operational, embodied, and transportation-related carbon emissions; prioritizes occupant health through better air quality management and safety through improved resilience strategies; and addresses equity more than ever with new credits focused on community involvement and accessibility, building staff safety, and more. The system is scheduled to be fully available for use in 2025, with beta projects already underway.

2. Reducing Embodied Carbon

The California Green Building Standards Code (CALGreen)’s new mandatory embodied carbon reduction requirement will go into effect as part of the 2022 Intervening Code Adoption Cycle updates on July 1, 2024.

This change to the CALGreen code, which historically has focused primarily on operational carbon, will require non-residential new construction and major renovations larger than 100,000 square feet (as well as state-owned buildings and public schools larger than 50,000 square feet) to reduce emissions using one of three pathways: 1) Building Reuse: Reuse 45% of the existing structure; 2) Prescriptive: Document environmental product declarations (EPDs) that have a lower global warming potential than specified for certain high-impact materials like steel, glass, mineral wool, and concrete; or 3) Whole Building Life Cycle Assessment: Complete this assessment to demonstrate a 10% carbon reduction from the project’s baseline. Local jurisdictions have been encouraged to go above and beyond by opting into one of two “voluntary” tiers of additional requirements.

Verdical Group has over a decade of experience working on CALGreen compliance, Life Cycle Assessments, building materials transparency, and embodied carbon reduction—if your project(s) will be impacted by the new requirements and you need assistance, let’s connect.

3. Credible Carbon Offsets

In our recent white paper, The CO2 Breakdown: Calculating Your Corporate Carbon Footprint, we discussed in detail when it is appropriate to purchase carbon offsets and how to choose the right ones. When it comes to achieving net zero emissions, Verdical Group believes in prioritizing reduction first and foremost. But whether you’re aiming for a net zero building or organization, there is a high probability you will need to purchase some carbon offsets.

The concept of carbon offsets is to compensate for carbon emissions elsewhere by funding projects that mitigate or remove carbon from the atmosphere. While there are many available on the market, not all are reputable. A quality carbon offset must guarantee permanence, meaning that emissions must remain removed for at least 100 years in order to make a measurable impact. The offset method must also avoid leakage, which is when emissions are simply shifted away from one industry or activity into another to provide the appearance of reduced emissions without actually reducing emissions at all.

There are several provider registries that have been vetted and approved by Climate Neutral, a third-party framework for climate reporting, including Climate Action Reserve, Verra, American Carbon Registry, and Gold Standard. Researching a provider or speaking to a consultant can help you find the provider that is the best match for your organization’s mission and needs.

4. ESG Reporting

Environmental Social Governance (ESG) continues to dominate conversations in the sustainability world. ESG reporting allows companies to take stock of how their business is performing across the three categories, make plans for improvement, benchmark their growth against their baseline, and share all of this information with the public. Public demand for corporate transparency has increased with the desire for consumers to know which companies are doing their part for people and the planet.

ESG is a hot topic here at Verdical Group as we continue taking steps to improve our social and environmental impact (check out our 2022 annual report!) and provide ESG consulting for our clients to guide them through the creation of their own initiatives and reports. Our subject matter experts have developed a multi-step process to help companies establish their ESG initiatives, create a roadmap to define their metrics and achieve their goals, and share that narrative with their customers—contact us below to learn more.

5. Scope 3 Emissions

As more and more companies jump on the sustainability reporting train and begin to tackle their emissions, it has become clear that while Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions can be accurately measured with success (again, our CO2 Breakdown white paper is a great place to start!), Scope 3 remains the Wild, Wild West of emissions tracking.

Scope 3 emissions result from activities that are not owned or controlled by your organization, but that indirectly affect its value chain (EPA). For instance, employee commutes and goods and services purchased by your organization all fall under the umbrella of Scope 3 emissions. Although Scope 3 emissions often make up the majority of a company’s GHG emissions, they are also the hardest to define or categorize. Measuring, tracking, reporting, and reducing emissions of any Scope can be a daunting task to take on, especially when the process is new to your company.

Not sure where to start? We’re here to help! Contact us today.