The “State of Green Business 2020” report, published by U.S.-based GreenBiz Group (publisher of GreenBiz.com), notes the growing use of electric heat pumps in commercial buildings as these facilities go “all-electric” and abandon fossil fuels for space and hot-water heating.
“While using electricity for heating was once inefficient, the equipment itself has become significantly better,” said the report, published on January 13. “For example, there are several electric heat pumps on the market that are two to three times more efficient at converting electricity into heat than conventional models.”
The report, which takes a cautionary look at the response of major businesses to climate change, acknowledged that the upfront costs of electric appliances can be more than for gas appliances. But it added that a study from the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) shows that added costs are “more than offset by avoiding plumbing the building for gas. And as more buildings go electric, appliance costs are sure to fall.”
Tech giant Google, the report said, is in the midst of building its Mission Bay campus in San Francisco, California (U.S.), “which will be more than a million square feet and heated and cooled using electric geothermal heat pumps,” supported by solar panels.
The report also noted the potential to include elements such as heat recovery heat pumps.
Heat pumps using the three major natural refrigerants – CO2, hydrocarbons and ammomia – are being employed in a wide variety of venues for space heating and/or heating hot water.
More progress needed
The State of Green Business 2020 report looks at key trends and metrics assessing how, and how much, companies are moving the needle on the world’s most pressing environmental challenges. It stressed the urgency of taking action to address the climate crisis.
“Our collective goal is to step back from the daily headlines to take stock of the progress, or lack thereof, in corporate sustainability practices, and to look around corners to see what’s next,” writes Joel Makower, Chairman of GreenBiz Group and Executive Editor of GreenBiz.com, in the introduction of the 13th annual report. “There is growing concern that the climate crisis, not to mention biodiversity loss and worsening air and water pollution in some parts of the world, are approaching critical levels.”
This year’s data, produced by U.K. research firm Trucost and covering the 500 largest U.S. publicly traded companies and the 1,200 largest global companies, also includes new metrics, such as how closely companies are aligned with the 2°C targets of the Paris Agreement as well as the exposure of companies’ facilities and operations to to the physical risks resulting from climate change.
Companies are signaling their commitment to sustainable business with publicly disclosed performance targets. About 55% of major global and U.S. companies have carbon targets in place (up 16% since 2014).
The report describes some of the major shifts taking place: the transition of building energy from natural gas to clean electricity; the evolution of oceangoing vessels to operate more efficiently; how companies are turning to nature-based solutions to mitigate climate and other risks; the shift of protein sources from animals to plants; the rise of employee activism; the growth of AI and bots in corporate sustainability reporting and much more.
Nonetheless, carbon emissions went up 1% for U.S. companies and 3% for their global counterparts since 2015, the report said. And major companies are accounting for just 25% of their required contribution to global climate goals.
“We will need to significantly accelerate progress if we wish to transition to a more sustainable global economic growth trajectory to address climate and sustainability goals,” writes Richard Mattison, CEO of Trucost, in the foreword of the report.
“Do we celebrate progress, however insufficient, or bemoan the S.O.S. signals the planet is sending?” asks Makower.