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Which Emission Reduction Opportunities Have the Shortest Payback Periods?

Updated: Jan 23, 2023

Once your organization has completed its baseline greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory and identified GHG hotspots, it’s time to set emission reduction targets and prioritize projects that will reduce GHG emissions and have favourable payback periods.

Of course, every organization is unique, but a recent study of over 16,000 emission reduction projects identified the kinds of projects most likely to have the shortest payback periods [1]. Relying on information gathered from the CDP database between the years of 2011 and 2016, the study found the following:

  • Transportation-related projects – payback period approximately 2 years

e.g., shifting long-distance transportation from road to rail; using hub and spoke model for package delivery operations; switching fuel to natural gas or electric hybrid trucks; use of navigational tools to reduce idle time; optimize vehicle use; improve ocean-vessel operations

  • Materials-related projects – payback period approximately 2 years

e.g., recycling, reducing packaging; incorporating recycled content into packages and products; redesigning products to reduce the use of raw materials

  • Behavioural change- related projects – payback period approximately 2.2 years

e.g., training employees on energy conservation; encouraging video meetings to reduce business travels travel

  • Projects involving modification of industrial processes, building retrofits, and adoption of renewable energy had longer payback periods.

Overall, renewable energy projects had higher upfront costs but tended to yield the highest long-term savings, while behavioural training had the lowest upfront costs and could still result in significant GHG emission reductions.

How Achieve Sustainability Can Help

After your baseline GHG emissions have been determined, we can help you identify and prioritize emission reduction opportunities that meet your business objectives. We can conduct business cases and feasibility studies to assess the most cost-effective GHG management approach for your organization and help you source any available financial incentives. Reach out today by contacting us at


1. Christian C. Blanco (2022) A Classification of Carbon Abatement Opportunities of Global Firms. Manufacturing & Service Operations Management 0(0).

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