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Climate Counts Scorecard Shows Improvement, but Not Enough

RP Siegel | Monday December 12th, 2011 | 0 Comments

Climate Counts is a not-for-profit organization aimed at increasing public awareness of, and bringing consumers and companies together in the fight against, global warming. Every year they put out a scorecard rating companies on their efforts in combating climate change. This month they published their fifth annual scorecard. Specifically, the scorecard assesses a given company’s efforts in:

  1. Reviewing: Is the company taking inventory of their greenhouse gas emissions using an industry accepted accounting protocol? (22 points)
  2. Reducing: Has the company articulated a strategy for reducing GHG emissions and have they achieved actual reductions? (56 points)
  3. Policy Stance: Does the company support the need for comprehensive energy and climate policy or is there evidence they oppose such measures? (10 points)
  4. Reporting: Is the company publicly disclosing information about their sustainability efforts and their progress toward carbon neutrality? (12 points)

Note that the scorecard does not measure actual carbon footprints, which puts heavy industry sectors like airlines on a more equal footing with lighter ones like banks. This year, 136 companies were assessed, in 16 sectors, representing a substantial chunk of the US GDP.

Results are grouped into three categories: Striders, or those making strides, with a score of 50 or better, Starters, or those getting started, with a score of 13-49 points, and Stuck, which are those companies still asleep at the wheel, with 12 points or less. This year 79 companies were rated as Striders.

Overall, the electronics sector (74.8) scored best, with food products (67.6) coming in second, and pharmaceuticals (67.2) third. Lowest scores went to toys and children’s equipment (11.6) and home and office furnishings (20.3). Ironic that those companies making products specifically for those who will be most impacted by climate change seem to care the least about it.

Best companies overall were Unilever (which also won the International Green Award) with 88 points, and Astra-Zeneca which was tied with Timberland with 86 points. Most improved was Wyndham Hotels which climbed 30 points to 57 and Amgen, which climbed 29 points to also reach 57 points.

The results correlated quite well with those of CSRHub which was covered here last week.

Three companies that have been singled out for initiatives that are both attractive marketing and effective emissions-reducers were all the subject of Triple Pundit profiles: UPS (70), United Continental Airlines (41) and Levi-Strauss and Co. (74)

Overall, improvement has been a clear trend. When compared with 2007, the first year of the survey, 58 percent of companies surveyed are making strides as compared to 24 percent in that first year. Most of that improvement came from companies that had been in the Starting category before. The number of Stuck companies decreased, but only from 30 percent to 20 percent, which only goes to show that a number of those who are Stuck, are really stuck. One of those, surprisingly, is Amazon.com (11), a company generally known for its innovation, whose score actually decreased by 3 from the previous year. Amazon was the only member of the largest 20 companies ranked that is still in the Stuck category.

Climate Counts is to be commended for their work in raising awareness on this issue. It gives consumers guidance on which companies they should be supporting if they are concerned about climate change. It also gives companies feedback on their own performance relative to others.

Sadly, as good as these efforts are, I don’t think they are enough, especially when I read things like this from climate scientists Kevin Anderson and Alice Bows, (as quoted in Grist) who draw the following, rather grim conclusion that says we need to go beyond making strides.

“… (extremely) dangerous climate change can only be avoided if economic growth is exchanged, at least temporarily, for a period of planned austerity within Annex 1 nations and a rapid transition away from fossil-fuelled development within non-Annex 1 nations.”

Not everyone agrees with this. Some analysts, like Amory Lovins, feel that we can achieve massive CO2 cuts (82 percent), giving up, oil, coal and nuclear, while growing the economy in the process. I don’t know if those cuts are enough to avoid the “extremely dangerous levels of climate change” that Anderson and Bows warn of, which would require emissions to peak as early as 2015 in developed (Annex-1) countries, and decline by 10 percent per year after that, but it would at least be a step in the right direction. And perhaps, if all governments, including our own, got behind it, then maybe we’d have a fighting chance.

But as Grist’s David Roberts points out, very few politicians or corporate CEOs are ready to sacrifice economic growth, even temporarily, in the name of preserving the planet for future generations.

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RP Siegel, PE, is the President of Rain Mountain LLC. He is also the co-author of the eco-thriller Vapor Trails, the first in a series covering the human side of various sustainability issues including energy, food, and water.  Like airplanes, we all leave behind a vapor trail. And though we can easily see others’, we rarely see our own.

Follow RP Siegel on Twitter.


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