Fifty Shades Of Grey Skies: Why The Carbon Disclosure Project Report Is A Must Read
The recently released Carbon Disclosure Project report doesn’t exactly scream bedtime reading. It’s 50-plus pages of findings from the CDP’s annual survey of top global companies, written on behalf of 655 investors with assets of $78 trillion.
The report rates companies according to their climate-change transparency as well as the scale and quality of their emissions reductions and strategies. In turn, the report is largely used by investors to guide investment decisions.
It’s one of the most comprehensive analyses of corporate sustainability that is linked directly to the bottom line. As the CDP CEO describes it: “CDP has pioneered the only global system that collects information about corporate behavior on climate change and water scarcity, on behalf of market forces, including shareholders and purchasing corporations.”
As I said, it’s a must-read for any sustainability professional. It’s a bit of roller-coaster read and will bring both cheers and jeers. Pour yourself a glass of wine and enjoy:
Cheers: It’s a treasure trove of data. The CDP sent out requests to the Global 500 companies, of which 81% responded with detailed answers to how they measure and report what climate change means to their business. The good news is that even in a bad economy, climate change remains on the agenda for many companies. Ninety-six percent of respondents said that they still have a senior executive or officer overseeing climate change. Seventy-eight percent report having integrated climate change into a wider business strategy.
Jeers: Rather contradictory, while climate change is being integrated into business strategies, few companies are making climate change a long-term issue. While 82% of companies have set absolute / intensity emission targets, only 20% of companies have set targets beyond 2020 (do they think we will have fixed the problem by then?).
Cheers: Despite the unwillingness of some to set planning goals beyond the year 2020, companies are aware that acting on climate change results in benefits that are greater than just short-term financial rewards. Sixty-eight percent of respondents correlated positive action on climate change to yield both customer behavior and enhancement of reputation.
Cheers/Jeers: The recent economic downturn resulted in negatively impacting the lives of many – from losing one’s house, one’s job, retirement, savings, etc. If there can be a silver lining to the economic downturn, it’s that it forced companies to embark on cost-savings initiatives that tended to be more environmentally friendly such as being more energy friendly and recycling (note: being wasteful can be expensive!). Total reported Scope 1 emissions have fallen from 3.6 billion metric tons CO2e in 2009 to 3.1 billion metric tons CO2e in 2012. As the report ruefully notes: “the right kind of results, for the wrong reasons.”
Truth is, there a lot of different sustainability rankings and ratings institutions. For each, the methodology varies widely and all are subject to criticisms of accuracy and measurability. While there isn’t time to read all of them, as marketing professionals, it’s important that we understand the different arguments and recent data that both supports and critiques sustainability.
I’m curious. Do you have a favorite sustainability rating agency? Let me know here and/or on Twitter @Measure4What.