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Goldman Sachs' carbon emissions throttled thanks to less travel

How much carbon does Goldman Sachs emit? The firm's newly issued sustainability report suggests it was in the region of 180,000 tonnes last year. And despite Goldman's best endeavors to cut back, its emissions have recently been rising and seem likely to rise again in 2022. 

The cause of the short term increase is entirely predictable and isn't peculiar to Goldman Sachs. At the height of the pandemic in 2020, emissions relating to office locations at the firm fell 16% to 151,000 tonnes. Last year, office-related emissions crept back up again. "Many metrics trending upward from 2020 to 2021 are primarily due to lifting COVID-19 restrictions and employees returning to the office," says Goldman in the notes accompanying its report. 

The biggest reduction in Goldman's carbon emissions in 2020 came from reduced business travel. Before the pandemic hit in 2019, Goldman was emitting 135,000 tonnes of carbon as its staff traveled internally and to meet clients. This was nearly as much as it emitted in its offices worldwide. In 2020, travel emissions fell to 29,000. Last year, they fell to 23,000. Conducting meetings through Zoom instead of in-person is very good for ESG credentials. 

Goldman's emissions are negated through carbon offsets, but offsets themselves stand accused of being greenwashing. Rather than releasing and offsetting carbon, if you're serious about ESG it makes more sense not to release it in the first place. 

As business travel makes a comeback, Goldman's travel-related carbon emissions risk rising six times as they revert to their level of 2019. Cognizant of this, Goldman says it's launched an "internal green traveler" program to help employees generate fewer emissions, both in terms of business travel and in the way they travel into the office. 

There are signs that carbon-free travel is becoming a perk at other firms too. For example, XTX Markets, the high speed trading firm that recently hired Hans Buehler from JPMorgan as co-CEO, has just launched a pledge to support its employees in leasing electric vehicles and buying carbon credits. 

Photo by Mahz Alam on Unsplash

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AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor

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