Just in time for the holiday season – when many of us are spending our hard earned dollars on gifts for family and friends, Climate Counts has released its latest score card to help us all support companies that are fighting climate change when we make those holiday purchases.
Nearly five years ago, Stonyfield launched Climate Counts (ClimateCounts.org), a nationwide collaborative effort to bring consumers and companies together in the fight against global climate change. Climate Counts independently ranks corporations – from Apple to McDonald’s to Levi’s to Procter & Gamble — on their commitment to climate change solutions. The brainchild of our CE-Yo, Gary Hirshberg, Climate Counts believes everyday consumers can be the most important activists in the fight to protect our planet.
We sat down with Climate Counts Project Director Mike Bellamente to discuss the most recent scores and what may lie ahead in the upcoming year for conscientious consumers and companies alike.
You can find Climate Counts latest scores here.
Why do you think there has been such an increase in “striding” companies over the past 5 years?
I think major corporations are recognizing the importance of preparing for a low-carbon future. I call it the 3 R’s: Risk, Reputation and Reward. By adopting smart climate strategies, companies are reducing their long-term risks, improving their brand reputation, and realizing the financial rewards of optimized efficiency and waste reduction. Sooner or later (hopefully sooner), there will be a price on carbon that reflects the negative environmental impact of fossil fuels. Once that occurs, companies striding toward reduced dependence on GHG-emitting energy sources stand to gain the most. Personally, I’m optimistic (at least in the long term) that the sustainability movement of the 21st century will be what mass production was for the auto industry in the 20th century – a true game changer.
Any big lessons that other companies can learn from the leading company, Unilever?
Absolutely. Unilever has shown that, in order for a sustainability plan to be successful, it needs to be implemented company-wide. So often, companies will allocate resources to a sustainability program that resides in another department (marketing, EH&S, operations, etc.), and therefore competes for resources allocated to that particular business unit. In Unilever’s case, EACH business unit is on the hook for its own environmental metrics. Take, for example, Dove body wash (a Unilever product). Not only is the product development team charged with assessing the environmental impact of the actual body wash, but the packaging team is required to achieve certain metrics associated with the product container… and so on, up and down the company’s value chain. Really innovative stuff.
What are the biggest ways you educate consumers about this information, and how can they vote best with their dollars?
I think consumers are past the point of wanting to be preached to about climate change, which is good because I’m not much of a preacher. Our goal is to put company information out there in an easily accessible, easily understandable format that allows people to make informed purchasing decisions. Demand for our scores continue to rise and we’re constantly exploring new methods of getting them into the hands of consumers for on-demand access (in addition to our iPhone App, we’ve got a Droid App coming out in early 2012).
Any thoughts on the prospect of climate and energy policy in the U.S.?
We live in a time when corporations have very powerful influence over how our government enacts policy. In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court voted to reverse precedent on the limits of corporate donations allowed during candidate elections. Essentially, this makes members of Congress beholden to the deep pockets of major corporations for reelection dollars rather than what’s in the best interest of the American public. Good, bad or indifferent, these are the rules of the game in the 21st century and we need to adapt. Our way of adapting at Climate Counts is by recognizing corporations that vocalize support for comprehensive climate and energy policy.
It’s one thing for companies to reduce their emissions and increase efficiency, but as long as coal power remains the cheapest form of energy, it’s very difficult for Chief Executives and Chief Sustainability Officers to make a business case for renewable energy sources that cost more and require a longer payback period. In essence, we need the help of corporations to move the needle on the policy side of things. We need a carbon tax that levels the playing field across all industries.
For more information about Climate Counts go here.