Today’s companies face substantial pressure from stakeholders—both internal and external—to monitor and report on a variety of environmental metrics. The benefits to the company are clear, as research shows that successfully managing a company’s environmental footprint can strengthen a firm’s financial performance[i], help them maintain that performance over the long term[ii], improve the company’s image,[iii] and identify and mitigate potential risks to operations.[iv]
A company’s corporate citizenship impact extends well beyond the four walls of the corporate headquarters. A significant amount of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) impact occurs within supply chains, whether it is greenhouse gas emissions, vendor performance, labor conditions within a supplier’s factory, or the sourcing of materials.
Over the past year, the debate about what actions should be taken to halt climate change has continued in earnest. Involvement from experts, religious leaders, companies, activists, and consumers has reached a fever pitch, and governments have responded. The United States and China reached a historic agreement to curb emissions and promote renewable energy, which has led to advancements such as the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, and the world’s largest cap and trade program. The United Nations is ramping up for COP21—the 21st Session of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change—and has included climate change in its new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which were accepted in late September by all 193 member states.
Climate change is again trending as a topic within corporate citizenship and the larger business community. The release of Pope Francis’ encyclical, “Laudato Si” (Be Praised), which highlights the impact developed economies are having on our planet and our responsibilities to act, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan, and the upcoming COP21—the 21st Session of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change—are creating a buzz.
Last month, the leaders of seven of the world’s largest economies came together for the G7 summit, and committed to ending reliance on fossil fuels by 2100. In concert with that goal, they pledged to reduce carbon emissions 40-70 percent below 2010 levels by 2050. While the practical details of how these reductions are to be achieved have yet to be outlined, the commitment is a strong signal of how climate change has risen to the forefront of the global environmental and geopolitical discussions. Now, according to Sir David King, the top climate change diplomat in the United Kingdom, we can expect a climate deal to be reached during November’s United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris.
The following originally appeared in the most recent issue of The Corporate Citizen, the Center’s magazine, and outlines Dell’s Legacy for Good Plan, a set of corporate citizenship goals for the year 2020. Come to the Center’s 2015 International Corporate Citizenship Conference to learn more about this ambitious program from Dell, the event’s convening sponsor.
In May 2014, Secretary of State John Kerry addressed Boston College’s graduating class and urged them to meet the threat of climate change head-on. His challenge to the next generation of leaders echoed his recent call to action to diplomats across the world, urging them to elevate the environment in everything they do and work together to adopt a new, ambitious environmental agreement by 2020.
- More than 120 world leaders attended the United Nations Climate Summit this past September in New York, and more than 400,000 protesters took to the streets during that same event.
- The European Union pledged to reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions from its 28 member states by 20 percent in 2020 compared to 1990 levels.
Have you set your environmental footprint goals for 2015 and beyond? Setting emissions targets can be a daunting task, but it is also a very tangible way to demonstrate a strong commitment to corporate citizenship.
More than 4,500 companies begin the process of measuring, managing, and mitigating their contributions to climate change by completing the CDP Climate Change Questionnaire, which is a key standard for environmental emissions reporting.
The natural resources we so often take for granted are in fact critically important to the very existence of our ecosystems and our economy.
Take, for example, a family-owned barge company which has ferried goods up and down the Mississippi River for the last 60 years. Water and weather weigh heavily on whether the company opens its doors every day, so the increased frequency of major water events like flooding or droughts must become part of their risk mitigation strategy.