Frequently Asked Questions

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, C2ES and TCR are sending a strong signal that innovative and sustainable leadership in reducing GHG emissions and enhancing resilience are critical to addressing climate change. The US EPA was a founding partner and sponsor of the awards program from 2012 until August 2017.

Awards Criteria

What categories are recognized within the Climate Leadership Awards program?

  1. 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, and engagement of their peers, partners, and supply chain.
  2. Individual Leadership Award
    Recognizes individuals exemplifying extraordinary leadership in leading their organizations’ response to climate change and through engagement of their peers and partners.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Innovative Partnership Certificate
    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 all categories with the exception of Innovative Partnerships, 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 Leadership Award in 2016, the company would not be able to apply for the Organizational Leadership Award again until the 2019 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. Also, award applicants cannot be recognized twice for the same action or activities.

Can an applicant apply for more than one award?
As long as an organization follows the direction as outlined in the aforementioned paragraph, an organization can apply for multiple awards in the same 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.

  1. The geographic boundaries of the reduction goal must include all U.S. operations, all North America operations, or all global operations. The reduction goal should include all scope 1 and 2 (either location-based or market-based) emissions sources that fall within the chosen geographic boundary. The goal boundaries must remain consistent throughout the goal period.
  2. The goal must be an absolute reduction goal. Intensity goals will only be accepted if accompanied by a publicly announced absolute reduction goal.
  3. The base year for a first generation goal may not be more than four years prior to the year the goal was publicly announced. For instance, for first-generation goals set in 2016, 2012 would be the earliest base year allowed. Subsequent goals may use the same base year as a previous goal, provided that the new goal extends the goal period by three years at a minimum.
  4. The goal period (the time between the base year and achievement year) should be no fewer than three and no more than 12 years for a first generation goal. Subsequent goals that use the same base year may extend the previous goal period by no fewer than three and no more than 12 years.
  5. Goals must represent an aggressive reduction, which is defined as follows:
    • An organization's first goal must commit to at least a 1.8% reduction per year over the life of the goal. For example, a 5-year goal must commit to at least 9% total reduction.
    • A subsequent goal with a new base year must also commit to at least a 1.8% reduction per year over the life of the goal. For example, a 5-year goal must commit to at least 9% total reduction. (An organization may substantiate their case for a subsequent goal that is below the required 1.8% threshold but that has ≥1% reduction per year, such as a goal considered aggressive in a specific sector.)
    • A subsequent goal that uses a previous goal's base year must also adhere to the 1.8% reduction rate per year over the goal period. The timeframe that is post-previous-goal-period will be evaluated and upheld to the same reduction threshold as the rest of the program, after previous reductions are taken into account (at minimum, 1% reduction per year beyond previously achieved reductions). For example, an organization achieves a 25% reduction from 2010 to 2015 and decides to set a new goal from 2010-2020. The 'new' goal must commit to at least a 30% reduction (2010-2020) in order to align with the minimum 1% reduction per year threshold.

How was the 1.8% GHG reduction rate per year determined?
After careful review, the CLA committee selected at least 1.8% reduction per year based on the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report's recommendation that in order to keep total warming below 2 degrees Celsius, global emissions need to be reduced between 41% and 72% on an absolute basis from 2010 to 2050. Assuming a straight-line trajectory, this range averages 1% to 1.8% reduction per year, and the committee selected the upper end of that range. To confirm that 1.8% represented an aggressive benchmark, the committee also analyzed previous goals set with Climate Leaders' partners, previous goals recognized under the Climate Leadership Awards (over the last 4 years), and goals reported through CDP.

Where can I learn more about Science-Based Targets?
For more information on science-based targets, see, for example, the Science Based Targets Initiative’s (SBTi) website The SBTi website provides information of the various methodologies available to set a science-based target and other resources to companies interested in science-based targets.

Will the Climate Leadership Awards recognize intensity-based GHG reduction goals?
Intensity goals will only be accepted if accompanied by a publicly announced absolute reduction goal.

Are long-term emissions reduction goals eligible for recognition in the CLA program?
Organizations are increasingly setting ambitious, long-term emissions reduction goals. Often, these goals are tied to midcentury (e.g. 2050) achievement years.

Long-term reduction goals can guide organizational planning and value structures, and clarify long-term risks and opportunities related to climate. However, short- and medium-term goals provide actionable opportunities to improve organizational efficiency. In order to accommodate organizations setting goals with longer time horizons, the CLA committee has extended the acceptable goal period length from three to twelve years, to three to fifteen years. The CLA committee will also recognize long-term reduction goals if accompanied by a public, concrete and aggressive interim goal.

If an organization applies for a CLA with a long-term (e.g. midcentury) emissions reduction goal, it must be accompanied by at least one concrete, publicly accessible interim goal that falls within the three to fifteen year acceptable goal length period. The interim goal and long-term goal both must be aggressive (minimum 1.8% reduction per year – see above for further information on the 1.8% threshold.)

For instance, Company A set a goal to reduce emissions by 75% from 2015 to 2050. On its own, this goal would not meet the CLA criteria due to a 35 year time period. However, this goal would be acceptable if it was publicly accompanied by an interim goal to reduce emissions by 30% from 2015 to 2030 (as a step toward meeting the 75% from 2015 to 2050 goal.)

Is a publicly reported and third-party verified inventory required?
Yes, for all categories except the Individual Leadership and Innovative Partnership Awards. To qualify for a Climate Leadership Award, applicants will need to submit documentation of a current GHG inventory that is publicly reported, and their publicly reported base year inventory that is third-party verified either to a 'limited' or "reasonable" level of assurance, or has been through a third-party critical review (see definitions below). For the Goal Achievement Award, a verified inventory for both base year and achievement year are required. 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 (considered critical review); 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.

  1. '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.'
  2. '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.
  3. 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.

Do scope 3 emissions have to be reported and third-party verified?
There are multiple GHG accounting and reporting methods contained within established GHG reporting guidance, such as the International Panel on Scope 3 emissions must be publicly reported if they are incorporated in the GHG reduction goal, and should always 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 ’carbon neutral’ or ‘net zero’ goals must include scope 3 sources as part of their GHG reduction commitments and are therefore subject to this criteria.

Do direct or indirect biogenic emissions have to be reported and third-party verified?
Direct or indirect biogenic emissions (CO2 emissions resulting from the combustion of biomass) are reported separately from scopes 1, 2 and 3. Similar to scope 3 emissions, biogenic emissions must be reported publicly if they are incorporated in the GHG reduction goal. If biogenic emissions are included as part of an applicant’s goal, these must undergo, at a minimum, third-party critical review.

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, provided that the difference between newly reported base year location-based or market-based scope 2 emissions and previously reported base year scope 2 emissions is less than 5%.

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. See the further guidance below.

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. While verification of that data is recommended, it is not required. Alternately, organizations can elect to adjust the base year to conform to the reporting approach of the achievement year – in which case verification of the adjustment is required if the change in emissions is 5% or greater.

Do the CLA requirements reflect the GHG Protocol Scope 2 Guidance?
Yes. The GHG Protocol Scope 2 Guidance introduced new requirements for reporting of scope 2 emissions. Several changes to the award's requirements were made as a result. Organizations must include both location-based and market-based scope 2 emissions in its reported GHG inventory for both the base year and the achievement year. GHG reduction goals can be based on either the location-based method or the market-based method. The organization will specify in the application which method is used, and should also specify this in public communication of the goal.

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. The organization must include both location-based and market-based scope 2 emissions in its reported GHG inventory for the base year, regardless of the magnitude of the change from previously reported scope 2 emissions.

If the base year inventory has undergone a previous third-party review, but there is an adjustment of 5% or more of the base year emissions made to that inventory, a third-party verification body must attest to the accuracy of the base year adjustment. This requirement also applies if the difference between newly reported base year location-based or market-based scope 2 emissions and previously reported base year scope 2 emissions is 5% or more.

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 (for scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions) 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:

  1. Real: The quantified GHG reductions must represent actual emission reductions that have already occurred.
  2. 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.
  3. Permanent: The GHG reductions must be permanent or have guarantees to ensure that any losses are replaced in the future.
  4. 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.

Does the organization have to be a participant of EPA's SmartWay program to be eligible for the Supply Chain Leadership Award?
No. EPA’s SmartWay program is existing best-practice for managing freight and transport emissions. Thus, it is highly recommended that 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— be both SmartWay partners and eligible for recognition under EPA's SmartWay Excellence Awards criteria. However, this is not a requirement.

More information on EPA's SmartWay Partner Categories.
More information on EPA's SmartWay Excellence Awards Criteria.

Application and Evaluation Process

What is the application process?
The application period for the 2019 awards will open on June 28 and close on September 27, 2018.

Where should applications be submitted?
CLA applications and supporting documents should be submitted through a new, web-based application portal, which can be accessed here:

Can organizations apply on their own behalf?
Yes, as long as the applicant meets the award criteria eligibility requirements, and for organizational and individual leadership categories, their respective third-party references meet the following requirements:

  1. The third party must be duly authorized to represent the applicant;
  2. 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);
  3. For the individual leadership award, full contact information for the applicant must be provided in the application.
Climate Leadership Awards Dinner

When and where will the Climate Leadership Awards Dinner take place?
The 2019 award winners will be publicly recognized during the Climate Leadership Awards Dinner, held in conjunction with the eighth annual Climate Leadership Conference.

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 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.

When will applicants be notified regarding the status of their applications?
All 2019 awards applicants will be notified by late December 2018 regarding the status of their application.

What do award winners receive?
Organizations recognized for Excellence in GHG Management: Goal Setting and Innovative Partnership 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, winners will receive two complimentary tickets to the awards dinner, or a deeply discounted rate on the Climate Leadership Conference (which will include the awards dinner).

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

Does the awards program occur on an annual basis?
Yes. C2ES, and TCR produce the awards program on an annual basis.

More Information
  1. Awards program:
  2. Climate Leadership Conference:

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

Climate Leadership Conference