Northern Trust's Strategy for Addressing Climate Change Risks

Sep 15, 2021 10:15 AM ET
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Northern Trust understands that the long-term viability of our business and our clients is tied to the health and well-being of our planet. We therefore commit to protecting the environment and mitigating any negative environmental impacts from our operations.

We align our business with the fundamental principle of sustainability: meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the abilities of future generations to meet their own needs. We do this by integrating environmental considerations into our company-wide processes, continually improving our business practices and delivering tangible, positive results related to the environment. Northern Trust's Workplace Services manages our real estate portfolio, procurement and facilities services with the objective of reducing the negative environmental impacts of our supply chain. We use energy to power our data centers and facilities, the majority of which are in North America. As a result, the bulk of our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions come from our North American operations. Since we began tracking our carbon footprint (comprised of the carbon dioxide equivalent of all GHGs produced from our operations), we have improved our data collection processes and calculation methodologies to align with the GHG Protocol.

Working closely with our building managers, Northern Trust follows the environmentally friendly building strategies and practices outlined by the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program, which has awarded our offices in North America and APAC one LEED platinum certification, six gold certifications, two silver certifications and one general certification. In addition, we use reliable and sophisticated tracking programs to monitor and manage our environmental performance and calculate our annual carbon footprint.

After completing a comprehensive emissions study in 2017 that formed our baseline, we set a goal to reduce our total Scope 1, Scope 2 (using the market-based approach) and Scope 3 carbon emissions by 25 percent per full-time employee (FTE) from 2015 levels by 2020. As of December 31, 2020, we have reduced our emissions by more than 62 percent since our 2015 baseline and our energy consumption by over 44 percent. 2020 was an unprecedented time due to the impact of COVID-19. With the vast majority of our staff working from home and significantly reduced business travel, we estimate that the impact of COVID-19 on our global emissions equates to approximately 25 percent reduction. We supplied over 12 percent of our portfolio with a renewable energy electricity supply, with further plans to expand this. We are currently developing our new carbon reduction target and expect to release it by the end of 2021. Meanwhile, we are continuing to reduce our carbon emissions as well as expanding the number of types of emission on which we report (i.e., water and waste emissions).

Water and Waste

In 2020, we began to gather data on the water consumption and waste of our buildings. In 2020, 36 percent of our portfolio buildings were able to provide water-use data, representing 104 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtonCO2e)/year. Fifty percent of our portfolio buildings provided waste data, representing 3059 MtonCO2e/year. With this baseline, we expect to be able to report on our reduction performance going forward.

Non-Governmental Organizations and Advocacy Groups

Collaboration with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and advocacy groups allows us to maintain transparency and hold ourselves accountable to our environmental sustainability practices. Northern Trust and our surrounding communities benefit when we publicly report our environmental footprint, such as our GHG emissions, energy use and the risks and opportunities associated with climate change under the supervision and guidelines of reputable third-party organizations. By joining communities of investors who hold the health of our planet in high regard, Northern Trust strives to effect positive change to our environment. The NGOs with which we collaborate include the U.S. Green Building Council, CDP, and the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change.

The Sustainability Network

The Sustainability Network, Northern Trust’s global employee environmental engagement program, is aimed at increasing awareness of sustainability issues, promoting best practices and unifying environmentally focused business operations. This program conducts celebrations around Earth Hour and Earth Day and facilitates volunteering in local communities. Limited by the unusual circumstances of 2020, it embraced the work-from-home mandates by digitally delivering environmental messages, hosting webinars and celebrating Earth Day through video events. The group also established a “Science Club” newsletter featuring environmental- and science-based educational experiments that employees and their children could conduct at home.

Local Communities

Northern Trust functions as a global citizen whose commitment to building a healthy, sustainable environment involves deep regard for our surrounding communities. We understand our footprint affects the larger ecological system and the lives of community members, and we believe in the power of communitybased actions to effect positive change for the good of our planet. Northern Trust commits an array of resources, including capital support and employee volunteerism, to local initiatives and organizations focused on environmental awareness and protection.

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