After high-profile flops like the U.N.'s Copenhagen Climate Summit, it has become apparent that governments have little hope of ever ameliorating climate change. Corporations, on the other hand, still have a chance, especially since lowering emissions could save them money in the short- and long-term (the World Wildlife Fund estimates that if the U.S. corporate sector reduced emissions by 3% annually between 2010 and 2020, it could save $780 billion).
This week, CDP (formerly known as the Carbon Disclosure Project) released its 2013 Global 500 Climate Change Report, a look at what hundreds of big corporations around the world are doing to combat climate change—and how well they're doing it.
More than 80% of CDP's Global 500—a list of the largest global companies by market capitalization—responded to the organization's climate survey, which asked for details about carbon emissions, climate strategy, governance, and stakeholder engagement in everything from business travel to employee commuting. These were the biggest greenhouse gas emissions drivers overall:
Some sectors perform significantly worse than others. They're the usual suspects: The energy sector is responsible for 28.3% of all emissions from the Global 500. The materials sector (i.e. mining) also performs poorly, representing over 26% of all emissions in the list. Sectors with a smaller physical impact, like the financial sector, are low emitters. But that doesn't mean they deserve to get high scores in all areas—in finance, for example, companies often fail to keep in mind the climate impact of their investments. Here's the full breakdown:
The heart of CDP's report is the Climate Disclosure Leadership Index, a list of every company that scores in the top 10% among the Global 500 in disclosure and receives a score above 85 (out of 100) in climate performance. CDP believes these two measurements can be "used by investors as a proxy of good climate change management or climate change performance of companies."
These are the top 12 performing companies overall:
WIthin each sector, certain industries perform far better than others. In the consumer discretionary sector, for example, the three highest-scoring companies—BMW, Daimler, and GM—are all in the auto industry.
Just a small number of companies are responsible for the majority of the world's carbon emissions. According to CDP, the top 50 biggest listed companies in the world generate 73% of all greenhouse gases—companies like Walmart and Exxon. These 50 big emitters aren't getting any better. Their greenhouse gas emissions climbed an average of 1.7% annually over the past four years.
And some of the most prominent big tech companies in the world, like Apple, Amazon, and Facebook, refused to respond to CDP's survey at all. Even many of the companies that did respond didn't report indirect emissions, which come from things like transportation, electricity purchases, and products used by clients. There is, in other words, still a lot of work to do.