Which Businesses Are Leading the Climate Change Charge?

Which companies are committed to reducing the causes of climate change? The Carbon Disclosure Project recently released its 2010 reports on companies in both the Global 500 and S &P 500. The reports chronicle companies’ efforts to be more transparent about their carbon emissions and their efforts to reduce them.

The reports are based on voluntary responses to questionnaires the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) issues each year. In 10 years of existence, CDP has seen its response rate increase by over 1000%. This year, 82% of the Global 500 and 70% of companies listed in the S&P 500 responded. Respondents represent over $64 trillion in assets. This is good news since regulatory efforts in the US and the likelihood of a binding international climate change treaty are murky at best. It shows even if governments aren’t getting serious about climate change, companies are.

What’s driving this interest in climate change and emissions? The reports split up companies by sector. These sectors include utilities, consumer staples, consumer discretionary, materials, health care, financials, information technologies, energy, industrials, and telecommunications. Interestingly, with the exception of utilities, each of these sectors sees more opportunities than risk from climate change.

So who are the leaders of the pack when it comes to disclosing carbon emissions and working to reduce them? The answer is likely to be a shocker to most people. On both the Global 500 and S&P 500, one of the highest scorers is News Corporation, the parent company of Fox News and the Wall Street Journal. Despite these conservative outlets constantly spewing unsubstantiated climate skepticism and obstructionist views on carbon regulatory efforts, News Corporation is leading the charge to reduce emissions. Seems a little backwards, doesn’t it?

Of course, this could be Rupert Murdoch’s, the patriarch of News Corporation, effort to show that his view is right. If you let business regulate itself, good can come out of it. Still, given News Corporation’s commitment to reducing emission and the causes of climate change, it seems odd that its editorial staff is littered with climate deniers.

There are a few other surprising leaders. Royal Dutch Shell tops the list for energy producers, in spite of intense gas flaring in the Niger Delta. Flaring releases methane, a major contributor to climate change. Nestle is on the list as well. Earlier this year, Nestle met with a deluge of criticism for its use of palm oil, which has contributed to the destruction of rain forests in Indonesia.

In spite of their indiscretions, these companies still have enough positive stuff going on to report and reduce their carbon emissions to warrant a place on CDP Leadership Index. It’s worth noting that while there are certainly negative marks on some of these companies’ records, they are also some positives. For example, Royal Dutch Shell recently devoted $2 billion to end gas flaring in the Niger Delta. And Nestle is working with Greenpeace and The Forest Trust to audit its supply chain to weed out contracts with firms that contribute to deforestation.

CDP’s reports offer some positive notes in a time when midterm elections in the US will likely see Democrats lose the Senate and possibly the House, and with them any chance to pass climate legislation. Even if government won’t step up to the plate to reduce the causes of climate change, there are at least some unlikely leaders in the business world who are.

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