Sustainability Blog - The Grid
Sustainability is still in its Wild West phase, as companies struggle to identify what information they should freely divulge about their environmental and social performance and corporate governance ("ESG"). A cottage industry of sustainability consultants has sprouted up to help companies identify the transparency measures that will make them more trusted, respectable and successful in the long term.
Below is an imaginary memo from a made-up consultancy that was recently obtained by Bloomberg.com Sustainability News:
The first step to reducing greenhouse gas emissions is to know where you're starting from. That's why the Carbon Disclosure Project works on behalf of investors to push companies to disclose their footprints. This week the CDP released its annual report, including a list of best performers and no- shows.
Companies aren't legally required to report emissions data, and there are no widely accepted standards for which emissions metrics should be reported, and when. That's why groups like the CDP, which represents investors with assets of $78 trillion, use surveys to standardize and aggregate the data. More than 4,000 companies participated this year.
The Republican Party platform for 2012 contains no mention of energy efficiency, leading some observers to conclude that the issue of energy conservation--long considered bipartisan—is becoming increasingly politicized.
The omission is “a little bit surprising” given support from previous Republican platforms and from Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney himself during his time as governor of Massachusetts, said Andrew Goldberg, chief lobbyist for the American Institute of Architects, a group that supports energy-efficient buildings.
Last year, Dutch pension fund manager APG wanted to compare how European telecom companies managed the energy needed to run their power-hungry data centers and networks. It turned out to be a tricky question. Some companies reported their CO2 emissions. Others measured the total energy they consumed. What’s more, their goals for cutting power use followed different timelines. "It was very difficult to compare the figures," says Erik Jan Stork, senior sustainability specialist at APG, which manages 311 billion euros ($398 billion) in assets.
So APG worked with the Carbon Disclosure Project to write guidelines for the telecom industry to report energy use. Those disclosures, which companies voluntarily file with the nonprofit, will help APG decide where to put its money. "It is information that has played an important role for the portfolio manager to weigh the various opportunities and risks within a company," Stork says.
If the proliferation of corporate sustainability reports is any indication, companies are starting to wake up to the realities of a resource-constrained world. That should be great news for groups like the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), which are focused on corporate transparency and accountability.
Yet, there seems to be a sense of loss of trust among the group's strongest proponents. I reached out to some sustainability experts and colleagues at CSRwire for thoughts, in advance of the CDP Global Climate Change Forum, which will be live-streamed on Bloomberg.com Sept. 12 at 9 am Eastern time.
Globalization has concentrated economic power within a group of large companies who are now able to change the world at a scale historically reserved for nations. Just 1,000 businesses are responsible for half of the total market value of the world's more than 60,000 publicly traded companies. They virtually control the global economy.
This vast concentration of influence should be the starting point for any strategy of institutional change toward a sustainable society.
InsideClimateNews.org -- The harassment faced by U.S.-based climate scientists has been well documented in the media—but not the harassment of scientists in Europe, Canada or the rest of the world.
That's because there hasn't been much to report.
InsideClimateNews.org -- A federal carbon cap-and-trade program is dead for the foreseeable future. So is a once-promising national clean energy standard.
With climate policy paralyzed in Washington, a number of leading U.S. corporations are going it alone, squeezing big reductions of climate-changing emissions from their operations and supply chains. With stakeholder criticism and other pressures building, more and more are also releasing rigorous climate data in their financial reports and enlisting third-party firms to make sure it is accurate.
Stalled U.S. policy and United Nations talks in recent years have made institutional investors, large companies, and civil-society groups some of the bright lights of international climate change leadership.
Next week, catch up on their efforts, when corporate and investment leaders mix it up at the Carbon Disclosure Project’s online Global Climate Change Forum. The event will be moderated by Bloomberg Businessweek’s Diane Brady and live-streamed to Bloomberg.com between 9 am and 10:30 am Eastern Time (2-3:30 pm in London) on Wednesday, Sept. 12. You can follow the conversation before, during and after the event on Twitter, using the hashtag #CDPforum.