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Advancing Climate Resiliency

ICF climate experts conducted the first climate and extreme weather vulnerability assessment for a professional services firm. That’s right—we assessed our own climate resiliency. Using downscaled climate data and information on projected temperature and precipitation extremes, ICF employees reviewed exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity of the firm’s assets and services, starting with our Fairfax, Virginia, headquarters building. This effort lays the foundation for an approach that can be used by other professional services firms to investigate and mitigate risks posed by changes in climate and extreme weather to critical infrastructure and operations.

Working on Other Sustainable Actions

Our efforts to manage the material impact of ICF’s operations address virtually all sources of our carbon emissions. But we don’t stop there. We work in the following ways to further reduce our environmental impact.

Prioritizing reuse over recycle. We maintain ICF-issued computers on a schedule to extend the useful life. When employees return equipment for repair, we evaluate the useful life remaining. If the major components are viable, we repair and continue using the equipment. If beyond repair, we recycle in a sustainable way.

Minimizing waste. ICF contracted an e-Stewards certified partner to reuse or recycle expiring laptop components and dispose of unusable parts in an environmentally responsible way.

In most of our facilities, we are one tenant among many. As a result, we have difficulty directly measuring our waste. However, we still work to reduce waste by reusing, recycling, and composting. In ICF offices where we have 30 or more employees, building management maintains recycling programs. Several offices also have composting programs that redirect waste from landfills to enrich farmland instead.

Conserving materials. When possible, ICF uses products made with recovered materials and reuses or repurposes equipment. Our office supply catalogs offer sustainable versions of many products, and we encourage our purchasers to buy green. In addition, we stock only recycled paper, reuse printer cartridges, print stationery on 100 percent recycled paper, and use refurbishment to extend computer life. We also print fewer copies of our own promotional materials, driving traffic to our website instead. Even this report is available only online.

We initiated default duplex printing in most ICF offices—decreasing our paper use by an estimated 25 percent. Many of our office kitchens have replaced disposable utensils, plates, and cups with reusable ones.

Conserving water. Our LEED certified offices are constructed to include high-efficiency toilets and faucets, and we’ve installed high-efficiency toilets and upgraded faucet aerators in some of our largest offices. We expect these devices to reduce water usage by up to 50 percent annually.

Investing in carbon offsets. We work hard to reduce our carbon emissions, and we offset our emissions by investing in high-quality projects. ICF’s climate change experts apply stringent criteria to ensure project quality and efficacy. For example, we ensure carbon offsets are verified independently and that carbon reduction would not have occurred without the carbon market. Recent projects that helped offset ICF’s carbon emissions include the following:

  • A fuel switch—from natural gas to biomass—at a Mississippi paper facility
  • A wind farm in India
  • A furnace modernization at a steelworks in Ukraine

Most recently, we invested in the sustainable destruction of ozone-depleting refrigerants stored in canisters.

Donating to improve climate science. ICF cosponsored a major study conducted jointly by MIT and Tsinghua University in Beijing. The research developed economic models that gave Chinese policy makers insight into various climate change and energy policies. These policy makers met with climate change experts and analyzed scenarios to curb transportation emissions. The research offers insights regarding how China can reverse the rising trajectory of its CO2 emissions within the next 20 years.

Advising clients to minimize environmental impacts. In addition to our own efforts, we help others minimize their impacts. We apply sophisticated future scenario modeling and impact measurement, climate science expertise, engineering capabilities, natural resource management experience, and policy knowledge to help clients plan and implement solutions that improve our environmental outlook while benefiting stakeholders and complying with regulations.

Volunteering to help the planet. Every April, our offices worldwide celebrate Earth Month. Some employees volunteer in their communities. They plant trees, shrubs, and gardens; remove invasive plants; clean up trash along trails and watersheds; restore trails; and more. We hold green potlucks with all locally sourced food. Some offices hold drives to recycle personal electronics. Other offices host swaps of clothing, books, and household goods.

Progress Toward Goals: Making a Sustainable Commitment

Each year ICF sets sustainability goals—organizing our time and resources to focus on priorities—and we inform stakeholders of our progress. We report on our environmental performance through several channels: the CDP climate change program, the CDP supply chain program, supplier questionnaires from many of our clients, and through this corporate responsibility report. Chief among ICF’s sustainability goals is to reduce our carbon emissions.

Breaking it down—progress toward our carbon reduction goal. We made great strides in reducing Scope 1 and 2 emissions—those resulting from powering our facilities. We achieved a 14 percent reduction by taking the measures already described. Unfortunately, our Scope 3 emissions increased at a rate of 8.5 percent. The Scope 3 emissions that we measure are from business travel and employee commuting. In addition to the measures we have already taken to reduce these emissions (described earlier), we are taking additional steps. For example, to reduce emissions from employees’ commuting, we increased the commuter allowance. Regarding business travel, we’re considering initiatives focused on reducing travel that is not directly for our clients.

Defining Scope 1, 2, and 3

Greenhouse gas accounting rules use Scope 1, 2, and 3 to delineate emission sources and degrees of responsibility.

  • Scope 1 emissions are known as “direct emissions” from sources owned or controlled by ICF. Only a very small portion of ICF’s emissions falls in this category—those generated by heating oil or gas.
  • Scope 2 emissions are from purchased electricity that powers our facilities.
  • Scope 3 emission sources occur beyond the walls of our facilities—such as business travel and employee commuting.