Walking Our Talk

The Union of Concerned Scientists Sustainability Report for Fiscal Years 2019–2020

Published Mar 16, 2022

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As an organization deeply interested in curbing global warming, we make extra efforts to reduce emissions, limit waste, and promote sustainability in our internal operations and day-to-day activities.

This report goes into detail about four main sources of emissions—paper use, energy use, business travel, and employee commuting—and our efforts to reduce them. We hope it's useful not only for our staff, but also for other organizations looking to identify opportunities in the realm of sustainability.

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Walking Our Talk

This is a condensed, online version of the report. Access to all figures and full report are available through download of the PDF.

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) puts rigorous, independent science to work to solve our planet’s most pressing problems. Joining with people across the country, we combine technical analysis and effective advocacy to create innovative, practical solutions for a healthy, safe, and sustainable future.

In fiscal years 2019 and 2020 (FY19 and FY20), UCS experts continued to expose the coordinated climate disinformation campaigns of the world’s largest carbon emitters and engaged with policymakers, industry, labor, and others on economic development and clean energy opportunities in communities across the country. We pushed for more sustainable farming practices and for healthier food systems, and we made substantial progress at the state and regional levels on clean energy, transportation, and climate solutions. Perhaps most importantly, we expanded our efforts to defend safe and equitable voting by releasing a suite of resources in the months leading up to the 2020 presidential election.

Our work in climate, energy, agriculture, and transportation has helped reduce heat-trapping emissions and other environmental impacts at the international, national, and state levels. UCS also seeks to reduce emissions, limit waste, and promote sustainability in its internal operations and our day-to-day activities with efforts guided by the UCS Sustainability Task Force (STF). The STF is an all-volunteer group of analysts, advocates, and administrative staff, representing every department and program at UCS. The STF not only helps bring a sustainability focus to UCS’s operational decisionmaking, but also monitors and measures UCS carbon emissions for our sustainability reports. The four main sources of carbon emissions measured by the STF are paper use, energy use, business travel, and employee commuting. This report goes into detail about these emissions, and our efforts to reduce them.

The STF also oversees initiatives to promote sustainable practices within the office and within staff’s personal lives. For example, the STF organized our annual Low-Carbon Commuting Month in May 2019 to encourage zero- and low-carbon transportation options. STF members serve as a regular resource for UCS staff on various sustainability issues, which have included residential renewable energy options, climate-friendly gardening and local-food programs, and enjoying a low-carbon holiday season.

Our efforts reach far beyond our Sustainability Task Force. Each new staff member receives a sustainability orientation, and our sustainability report is presented to our entire staff, giving all the opportunity for input to help refine and extend our sustainability goals. We hope this report is not only useful for our staff, but for other organizations looking to identify opportunities in the realm of sustainability.

FY19 – FY20 Emissions Overview

Our total carbon emissions for FY19 and FY20 were 1,218 and 828 metric tons of CO2e2, respectively. Compared to what was reported in previous years, these values vary due to a data collection and reporting adjustment in our business travel tracking, as well as the impacts of COVID-19 in the latter half of FY20 (Table 1). These changes make year-over-year comparisons difficult, but we are pleased to know that our new reporting gives us more realistic and accurate results. While these numbers are only snapshots in time and depend on a range of factors (many of which are outside of our control), they represent an encouraging trend that we will look to build on in coming years.

Table 1

A breakdown of paper use, energy use, business travel, commuting, and total emissions from FY17 to FY120.

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