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Student-Faculty Collaboration Tracks Corporate Efforts to Curb Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Daniela Chona ’20, Pete Edmunds ’20, and Prof. Lesley Meng co-authored “Net Zero: The Next Frontier for Corporate Sustainability,” which assembles and charts data on greenhouse gas emissions among the S&P 100.

By Karen Guzman

cover of Net Zero: The Next Frontier for Corporate Sustainability For Daniela Chona ’20 and Pete Edmunds ’20, a summer spent as research assistants for one of their Yale SOM professors led to an unexpected role: as co-authors of a report tracking greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and efforts to curb them, among the biggest companies in the United States.

The report, written with Professor Lesley Meng and published recently by the Yale Center for Business and the Environment, examines the varying standards for how companies report emissions, identifies the biggest emitters, and looks at  company goals and initiatives for emissions reduction, among other insights. The report, titled Net Zero: The Next Frontier for Corporate Sustainability,  includes nine data visualizations analyzing GHG emissions from the S&P 100 across various dimensions.

The report grew out of frustration over lack of data on GHG emissions among top companies.

“We originally planned to study the impact of environmentally conscious policy decisions on corporate reporting and greenhouse gas emissions,” says Meng, an assistant professor of operations management. But Chona and Edmunds discovered that the data they needed wasn’t publicly available—so they decided to assemble it themselves.

The two graduating students “were the key drivers behind the project,” Meng says. “They scoured the internet and assembled a dataset capturing the reported greenhouse gas emissions from each of the S&P 100 firms.”

Edmunds says that the report’s goals are to inspire companies to learn best practices on the path to “net zero” emissions, to provide a publicly available data source and collection of insights for future studies, and to help drive more sustainable consumer behavior among readers.

“Our data visualizations communicate complex information about corporate greenhouse gas emissions in a digestible format,” Edmunds says. “We hope to empower consumers and voters by arming them with a better understanding of the problem and what it will take to bring corporate emissions down to a sustainable level.”

The report shows that some companies’ goals are more realistic than others.

“By mapping out a view of where S&P100 companies fall relative to each other, as well as comparative sustainability performances between and within industries, we get a view of where progress is made and where we can do better,” Chona explains.

Working with Meng and Edmunds on the project was “a great way” to finish her MBA education, Chona says: “A huge reason I chose Yale SOM was the opportunity to explore critical topics like this. The fact that I got to do it under the guidance of an amazingly supportive and knowledgeable faculty member was a bonus.”

Both Chona and Edmunds have now moved on in their careers. Chona is a consultant at the Boston Consulting Group, and Edmunds is a senior consultant at Deloitte Consulting.

But Meng says that their summer research will continue to resonate: “Pete and Daniela were a joy to work with, and this report is a manifestation of their efforts, and of our collective interest, in helping to mitigate the climate crisis.”

Read Net Zero: The Next Frontier for Corporate Sustainability