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Center for Corporate Climate Leadership

Frequent Questions

EPA's Climate Protection Partnerships Division is committed to reducing greenhouse gases (GHGs) through cost-effective partnerships across the U.S. economy. As part of this commitment, EPA's Center for Corporate Climate Leadership ("the Center") co-sponsors the Climate Leadership Awards with three NGO partners: the Association of Climate Change Officers (ACCO), the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES), and The Climate Registry (The Registry).

Program Basics

What are the Climate Leadership Awards?
The Climate Leadership Awards is a national program that recognizes and incentivizes exemplary corporate, organizational, and individual leadership in response to climate change. By showcasing and recognizing voluntary action on climate and energy under a unified banner, EPA, ACCO, C2ES, and The Registry are sending a strong signal that innovative, sustainable leadership, and reductions in GHG emissions are critical to addressing climate change.

Why is EPA jointly recognizing climate leadership with ACCO, C2ES, and The Registry?
EPA values the contributions and expertise that organizations working to address climate change can bring to a recognition initiative. EPA recognition of organizational and individual performance encourages voluntary action on energy efficiency, the production and use of cleaner power, managing and reducing GHG emissions, building resilience, and other climate-friendly activities that go beyond business-as-usual.

How did EPA form a partnership with ACCO, C2ES, and The Registry?
In early 2011, EPA requested proposals from organizations to recognize corporate leadership on climate change. In May 2011, the proposal from the consortium consisting of ACCO, C2ES, and The Registry was selected by EPA to partner on this new national recognition program. ACCO, C2ES, and The Registry have a history of collaboration and complementary expertise. Their combined memberships include more than 450 organizations from the public and private sectors.

Are the Climate Leadership Awards a replacement program for Climate Leaders?
The Climate Leadership Awards program is a legacy of EPA's former Climate Leaders program, not a replacement. The EPA Climate Leaders program, logo, website, and all other activities and affiliations officially ended on September 30, 2011.

While EPA is no longer providing individual companies with one-on-one technical assistance for developing GHG goals, inventories, and inventory management plans (IMPs) in a programmatic setting, in 2012, EPA launched its Center for Corporate Climate Leadership ("the Center") to serve as a resource for all organizations looking to expand their work in the area of GHG measurement and management.

The Center helps to establish norms of climate leadership by encouraging organizations with emerging climate objectives to identify and achieve cost-effective GHG emission reductions, while helping organizations with more advanced climate programs to further reduce their GHG impacts, both internally and throughout their supply chains. The Center serves as a comprehensive resource, providing technical tools, ground-tested guidance, educational resources, and opportunities for information sharing and peer exchange.

In keeping with the Center's mission, EPA released its Corporate GHG Goal Evaluation Model in May 2012. The goal model was initially created under EPA's Climate Leaders program as a tool for projecting business-as-usual GHG forecasts in order to assess the aggressiveness of GHG reduction goals set by companies participating in the program.

The Center also recognizes exemplary corporate, organizational, and individual leadership in addressing climate change by co-sponsoring the Climate Leadership Awards and serving as the Climate Leadership Conference headline sponsor.

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Awards Criteria

What will be recognized within the Climate Leadership Awards program?
Specific award categories are as follows:

  • Organizational Leadership Award
    Recognizes organizations that not only have their own comprehensive greenhouse gas inventories and aggressive emissions reduction goals, but also exemplify extraordinary leadership in their internal response to climate change, through engagement of their peers, competitors, partners, and supply chain, and addressing climate risk in their enterprise strategies.
  • Individual Leadership Award
    Recognizes individuals demonstrating extraordinary leadership both in their internal response to climate change and through engagement of their peers, competitors, partners, and supply chain.
  • Supply Chain Leadership Award
    Recognizes organizations that have their own comprehensive greenhouse gas inventories and aggressive emissions reduction goals and demonstrate they are at the leading edge of managing greenhouse gas emissions in their organizational supply chains.
  • Excellence in Greenhouse Gas Management (Goal Achievement Award)
    Recognizes organizations that publicly report and verify organization-wide greenhouse gas inventories and achieve publicly-set aggressive greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals.
  • Excellence in Greenhouse Gas Management (Goal Setting Certificate)
    Recognizes organizations that publicly report and verify organization-wide greenhouse gas inventories and publicly set aggressive greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals.
  • Innovative Partnerships Certificate NEW!
    Recognizes organizations working collaboratively on leading edge climate initiatives. Partnerships have collectively established objectives to measurably address greenhouse gas reduction goals and/or adaptation and resilience activities.

Who is eligible to be recognized by this awards program?
For most categories, organizations with annual revenue over $100 million as well as governmental entities or academic organizations with annual budgets over $100 million are eligible. Applicants must have significant operations in the United States, however, the majority of GHG emissions reductions do not have to occur in the United States.

For the individual leadership category, applicants whose employers meet the aforementioned criteria are also eligible. Individual applicants must also work and reside in the United States.

Why is there a threshold of $100 million in revenues for corporate entities, and of $100 million in budget for governmental entities and academic organizations?
While all actions taken to reduce GHG emissions and enhance climate resilience are important, this program focuses on motivating and recognizing those organizations that may yield the largest impacts through their efforts. A threshold was also implemented to ensure that volunteer expert review panels would be able to provide an adequate evaluation of each application.

Can an applicant/award winner reapply every year?
If an organization is recognized in a particular category, that organization may not reapply for that award for two years. (Example: If company A receives an Organizational Award in 2014, the company would not be able to apply for the Organizational Award again until the 2017 awards). An applicant who applied for a given category during the previous year but did not receive recognition in that category may reapply for the same award. An organization that receives recognition in one category may apply for a different category the following year.

What constitutes an aggressive GHG reduction goal?
Applicants are expected to demonstrate that their goals are sufficiently aggressive and beyond business as usual in the applicant's sector. The determination of an aggressive goal may vary for different sectors and for different organizations depending on a variety of factors. For instance, GHG intensity tends to decrease over time in most sectors as equipment is replaced with newer, more efficient technology. This trend can be rapid in sectors where capital stock turns over quickly, and much slower in traditional manufacturing sectors. At the same time, organizations within the same sector can have different GHG emissions sources and a wide range of reduction opportunities. In addition, some organizations have undertaken GHG reduction activities prior to announcing public GHG targets, which should be taken into consideration when evaluating an organization's goal.

Other ways of demonstrating the aggressiveness of GHG goals include providing input from external industry experts or stakeholders, demonstrating unique emissions reduction opportunities specific to the organization and how those factored into goal setting/achievement, qualitative and quantitative evidence of past performance, how the organization is implementing energy management best practices for the industry, appropriate production metrics, and other GHG management innovations that might support an applicant's claims.

What tools or resources are available to help assess whether a GHG reduction goal is aggressive?
EPA has published the Corporate GHG Goal Evaluation Model, which is available for download on the EPA Center for Corporate Climate Leadership's Goal Setting page.

This resource provides organizations with a transparent and publicly available benchmarking tool to help evaluate and establish new or existing GHG goals. This model was originally created as a tool for projecting business-as-usual GHG intensity improvements in order to assess GHG reduction goals set by companies participating in the Climate Leaders program. The model incorporates best available forecast data on energy consumption and economic production output from a variety of publicly available sources.

In addition to the benchmarking tool above, reduction targets set using other aggressive benchmarks or "context-based sustainability" approaches, such as those informed by GHG emission level reductions required by the scientific community to limit a global temperature rise to 2°C are also acceptable provided they also meet the aforementioned sector-specific criteria. For more information on demonstrating the aggressiveness of a reduction goal through benchmarking, please refer to EPA's guidance.

Do the Climate Leadership Awards allow for recognition of the goals set by Climate Leaders during their participation in EPA's former Climate Leaders program?
Yes. Partners who were recognized for goal setting under the Climate Leaders program, but that have not yet been recognized for achievement of that goal, are eligible for recognition. However, Climate Leaders goals that have been altered from their original form (e.g., switching from a calendar year to a fiscal-year reporting basis) may need to provide additional emissions data and/or documentation before they can be recognized.

Will the Climate Leadership Awards recognize intensity-based GHG reduction goals?

  • For the Excellence in GHG Management (Goal Setting) category: All intensity-based GHG goals must be accompanied by a parallel and translatable absolute reduction goal. Furthermore, public communication about the goal must clearly highlight the absolute reduction aspect of the intensity goal.
  • For the Excellence in GHG Management (Goal Achievement) category: Applicants that publicly established aggressive intensity-based GHG reduction goals prior to October 5, 2010 (the date after which Climate Leaders no longer accepted intensity goals) and achieved the goal between January 1, 2012 and September 12, 2014 will be eligible for recognition (if they have not yet received recognition from EPA). Eligible organizations achieving intensity-based GHG reduction goals that were accompanied by commitments to aggressive absolute emission reductions will also be recognized.

Can an applicant be eligible for the Organizational and Supply Chain Leadership categories if they currently have an intensity-based GHG reduction goal?

  • Organizations that set aggressive intensity-based GHG reduction goals before October 5, 2010 (the date after which Climate Leaders no longer accepted intensity goals) will be eligible for recognition. Organizations with intensity goals established on or after October 5, 2010 that are accompanied by commitments to aggressive absolute emission reductions may also be eligible for these categories.

Are partnership programs with intensity-based GHG reduction goals eligible for the Innovative Partnerships Certificate?

  • Yes. However, please note that the aggressiveness of the GHG reduction goal will be considered by independent reviewers. Applicants are encouraged to provide a parallel and translatable absolute reduction goal, if possible.

Is a publicly reported and third-party verified inventory required?
Yes, for all categories except the individual leadership award. To qualify for a Climate Leadership Award, applicants will need to have a GHG inventory that is publicly reported and third-party verified to a 'limited' level of assurance, or has been through a third-party critical review (see more detail below). This requirement is an essential component for evaluating and ensuring the accuracy of the material contained within applications, as well as the consistency and quality of the data submitted. Applicants with inventories previously reviewed and approved under EPA's former Climate Leaders program may submit those for the relevant years referenced in the application; however, if the applicant's inventories have undergone significant adjustments since their participation in the Climate Leaders program, then the applicant's inventories may need to be re-verified to meet the aforementioned data quality requirements.

What is international best practice in GHG reporting, and what standard of third-party verification will CLAs accept?
There are multiple GHG accounting and reporting methods contained within established GHG reporting guidance, such as the International Panel on Climate Change Methodology Reports, the World Resources Institute/World Business Council for Sustainable Development's GHG Protocol standards, the International Standards Organization's 14064 series, and The Climate Registry's GHG reporting and verification protocols.

Once an organization has completed its annual emissions report, the inventory must be publicly reported and the goal period's base year and target year inventories verified by a third-party in order to be submitted in a CLA application. Three levels of third-party verification are currently accepted in the CLAs: a 'reasonable' level of assurance, a 'limited' level of assurance, and third-party critical review. These levels reflect the degree of confidence the verifier has that the emissions report is materially correct. As the assurance level increases, so does the required rigor of the review process.

  • 'Reasonable' assurance statements are generally considered to reflect the highest possible level of confidence from a verification body. They result from a comprehensive review and site visits and are typically crafted as a positive statement, in other words, the verifier demonstrates there is 'reasonable assurance that an emissions report is materially correct.'
  • 'Limited' assurance statements provide a lower level of confidence, as they require both less detailed testing of GHG data and less examination of supporting documentation. These are typically crafted as a negative assertion, in other words, the verifier demonstrates there is no evidence that an emission report is not materially correct.
  • Third-party critical reviews are conducted by an independent third party who, at a minimum, ensures that the measurement methodologies and data collection processes are consistent with international best practice and are scientifically and technically valid. Applicants must include a written statement from the third party that confirms the data used to estimate emissions are appropriate and reasonable for public reporting. If the inventory is reported to a particular standard, the critical review findings should also include a statement that the inventory is in conformance with that standard.

Please Note: Beginning with emissions year 2014, verification to at least a limited level of assurance consistent with ISO 14064-3, conducted by a verification body accredited to ISO 14065 will be required for all inventories submitted to comply with Climate Leadership Award application requirements. In addition, 2014 base years and achievement years used to qualify for the GHG Management recognition will be required to be verified to a reasonable level of assurance consistent with the above ISO standards. Inventories for emissions years prior to 2014 that have gone through limited assurance, third-party critical review, or were previously reviewed and approved under EPA's former Climate Leaders program will be accepted for all applications.

Do scope 3 emissions have to be reported and third-party verified?
Scope 3 emissions must also be reported if they are incorporated in the GHG reduction goal and should be reported for Supply Chain Award applications. If scope 3 emissions are included as part of the applicant's goal, these must also undergo, at a minimum, a third-party critical review. Please note that 'Net Zero' goals must include scope 3 sources as part of their GHG reduction commitments and are therefore subject to this criteria.

How are the verification standard awards criteria for scope 1 and 2 emissions evolving? Will these changes impact the Climate Leadership Awards in the future?
In order to align with international best practice, third-party verification for 2014 GHG inventories and beyond must be:

  • consistent with ISO 14064-3,
  • conducted by a verification body accredited to ISO 14065, and,
  • performed to limited level of assurance.

In addition, 2014 base years and achievement years used to qualify for the GHG Management recognition will be required to be verified to a reasonable level of assurance consistent with the aforementioned ISO standards.

A high-quality verification standard is directly linked to accurate, credible data, which is critical for validating emission reductions and for demonstrating true accountability to your stakeholders.

Are ISAE standards acceptable for verification of GHG inventories?
Beginning with the 2016 awards, verification for 2014 inventories and beyond must be consistent with ISO 14064-3. For the 2015 awards, other standards such as ISAE 3000 may be accepted. Base year reports that were submitted to U.S. EPA's former Climate Leaders Program for technical review by an EPA-contracted reviewer and were found to be consistent with the requirements of that program are also accepted. However, if the applicant's inventories have undergone significant adjustments since their participation in the Climate Leaders program, then the applicant's inventories may need to be re-verified to meet the CLA's data quality requirements.

If an organization had its base year accepted by EPA as part of the former Climate Leaders program and no further base year adjustments have been made, does it have to have its base year re-verified?
No.

If an organization had its base year accepted by EPA as part of the former Climate Leaders program but then had to adjust its base year, does it have to have its base year re-verified?
Yes. It may be possible for an organization to have the adjustment verified in conjunction with the achievement year inventory.

What if the applicant has changed their reporting approach from a calendar year to a fiscal-year basis?
If an organization changes its reporting approach (e.g., from a calendar year to a fiscal year-basis) during the goal period it must provide emissions data for the period of time not reflected in the achievement year inventory so as to demonstrate that the organization would have still achieved the original goal had the reporting approach not changed. Where provided, additional data will not be required to be verified, although verification is recommended. Alternately, organizations can elect to adjust the base year to conform to the reporting approach of the achievement year and obtain verification of the adjustment. In these circumstances, the organization does not need to re-evaluate the aggressiveness of the goal. However, if more significant changes are implemented, it may be necessary to demonstrate that the original goal is still aggressive.

What if there has been a change in the applicant's base year emissions?
If base year emissions have changed by 5% or more as a result of structural change, a change in calculation methodologies, or because of a discovered error, applicants must adjust the base year inventory to reflect this correction or change.

If the inventory has undergone a previous third-party review, but there has been an adjustment of 5% or more of the base year emissions, a third-party verification body must attest to the accuracy of the base year adjustment.

Can a subsidiary or government agency apply for an Excellence in GHG Management award?
Yes, as long as the applicant can provide a detailed GHG inventory that is accounted for separately from that of the parent organization. Additionally, the subsidiary/agency must meet the established revenue/budget eligibility thresholds.

Can offset and renewable electricity purchases be listed as one of the three mitigation activities under the Excellence in GHG Management criteria?
Purchases of high-quality offsets (scope 1, 2, and 3) and renewable electricity demonstrated by the ownership and retirement of renewable energy instruments, such as renewable energy certificates (scope 2) can be used as part of a program to reduce an organization's GHG emissions. If used, they should be incorporated into the verified GHG inventory. However, the Climate Leadership Awards look to recognize leaders that undertake mitigation activities that go beyond short-term purchases of renewable electricity and offsets. Thus, the three mitigation activities provided in the application should be internal initiatives that an organization undertakes to manage and reduce its emissions.

Can offsets and renewable electricity be sourced from outside the United States?
While it is preferred that offsets are sourced in the U.S., non-U.S. offsets are also acceptable as long as they meet the following key accounting principles:

  • Real: The quantified GHG reductions must represent actual emission reductions that have already occurred.
  • Additional: The GHG reductions must be surplus to regulation and beyond what would have happened in the absence of the project or in a business-as-usual scenario based on a performance standard methodology.
  • Permanent: The GHG reductions must be permanent or have guarantees to ensure that any losses are replaced in the future.
  • Verifiable: The GHG reductions must result from projects whose performance can be readily and accurately quantified, monitored and verified.

Purchases of renewable electricity from the U.S. for U.S. facilities are also preferred. Purchases of renewable electricity outside the U.S. for non-U.S. facilities may be acceptable as long as the applicant can demonstrate that the renewable electricity purchases otherwise meet the EPA's Green Power Partnership eligibility requirements (PDF) (19 pp, 630K).

Does the organization have to be a participant of EPA's Smartway program to be eligible for the Supply Chain Leadership Award?
Applicants citing significant achievements in U.S. and Canadian transportation and distribution-related supply chain activities and that are eligible to be a SmartWay partner in one of the six categories—freight shippers, logistics companies (including 3PLs/4PLs), rail carriers, truck carriers, drayage truck carriers, and multi-modal carriers—must be both SmartWay partners and eligible for recognition under EPA's SmartWay Excellence Awards criteria.

If an applicant's supply chain achievements do not include significant transportation and distribution-related activities in the U.S. and Canada, or they are not eligible to be a SmartWay partner, then these criteria do not apply.

More information on EPA's SmartWay partner categories.

More information on EPA's SmartWay Excellence Awards criteria.

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Application and Evaluation Process

What is the application process?
Application forms will be available on the website. An application may be submitted by or on behalf of the organization/individual for a Climate Leadership Award between the opening of the application period and September 12, 2014.

What is the timeframe for applications?
The deadline for applications for the 2015 awards will be September 12, 2014.

What is the early bird application process and how does it work?
The EPA, ACCO, C2ES, and The Registry will conduct an advance review of all applications submitted by COB on August 8, 2014 and provide guidance to applicants if specific clarification is required. Early Bird applicants will be informed by August 22, 2014 of requests for clarifications. If clarifications are requested, the applicant will have until September 12, 2014 to resubmit the application. Applications submitted after the early bird application deadline will not be reviewed in advance of the September 12, 2014 final deadline.

Can organizations apply on their own behalf?
Yes, as long as the applicant meets the award criteria eligibility requirements, and the third party meets the following requirements:

  • The third party must be duly authorized to represent the applicant;
  • For organizational recognition categories, a responsible point of contact employed by the applicant organization must be identified in the application (full contact information for that individual must be provided).
  • For the individual leadership award, full contact information for the applicant must be provided in the application.

How will the applications be judged?
Applications will be reviewed by EPA, ACCO, C2ES, and The Registry in collaboration with independent committees of recognized experts. EPA will review all applicants to ensure that they are in good standing with EPA. Finalists will need to pass an EPA compliance screen in order to be selected.

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Climate Leadership Awards Dinner

When and where will the Climate Leadership Awards Dinner take place?
The 2015 award winners will be publicly recognized during the Climate Leadership Awards Dinner in early 2015, held in conjunction with the annual Climate Leadership Conference.

What is the Climate Leadership Conference?
The Climate Leadership Conference is an annual exchange dedicated to professionals addressing global climate change through policy, innovation, and business solutions. Providing a powerful platform for collaboration, the event gathers forward-thinking leaders from business, government, academia, and the non-profit community to exchange best practices, share challenges and new opportunities, and support peers who are addressing climate change in their operations.

The Climate Leadership Conference is hosted by ACCO, C2ES, and The Registry, with U.S. EPA's Center for Corporate Climate Leadership as the event's headline sponsor.

More than 425 climate professionals participated in the 2014 conference. The 2015 event will feature high-profile speakers from the public and private sectors who will share key insights and innovative ideas on topics related to the Climate Leadership Awards such as: energy efficiency and clean energy opportunities, setting and achieving GHG reduction goals, engaging supply chains, developing adaptation strategies, and other practical applications for climate change response strategies. Comprehensive information about the conference is available at www.climateleadershipconference.org. Exit EPA Disclaimer

Who may attend the awards and conference?
The conference is open to the public. Conference attendees, award winners, and special guests are encouraged to attend the awards dinner during the conference. Registration Exit EPA Disclaimer for the conference and awards dinner are required.

Will there be multiple winners in each award category?
Multiple winners may be recognized where it is deemed appropriate to do so. A list of past award winners is published on the EPA web site.

When will applicants be notified regarding the status of their applications?
All applicants will be notified by late December 2014 as to the status of their application for recognition under each category.

Note: Applicants to multiple categories will receive a separate notification for each application submitted.

What do award winners receive?
Organizations recognized for Excellence in GHG Management: Goal Setting and Innovative Partnerships will receive a mounted certificate. The Excellence in GHG Management: Goal Achievement, Supply Chain, Individual, and Organizational Leadership Award winners will receive a physical award. Additionally, a limited number of complimentary tickets to the Climate Leadership Conference are provided to award winners.

How do I register to attend the Climate Leadership Awards and Conference?
Registration information for the Climate Leadership Awards Dinner and the Climate Leadership Conference will be available at www.climateleadershipconference.org. Exit EPA Disclaimer

Does the awards program occur on an annual basis?
Yes. EPA, ACCO, C2ES, and The Registry produce the awards program on an annual basis.

Who produces the Climate Leadership Conference? What is EPA's role in the conference?
ACCO, C2ES, and The Registry co-produce the Climate Leadership Conference. EPA is the headline sponsor.

More information

See the conference website Exit EPA Disclaimer for more information.

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Questions will be directed to the appropriate parties and we will respond within 2-3 business days.

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