Thursday, September 06, 2012

(BN) Don't Look to U.S. Politics to See Climate Change Momentum

Stalled U.S. policy and United Nations talks in recent years have made institutional investors, large companies, and civil-society groups some of the bright lights of international climate change leadership.

Next week, catch up on their efforts, when corporate and investment leaders mix it up at the Carbon Disclosure Project's online Global Climate Change Forum. The event will be moderated by Bloomberg Businessweek's Diane Brady and live-streamed to between 9 am and 10:30 am Eastern Time (2-3:30 pm in London) on Wednesday, Sept. 12. You can follow the conversation before, during and after the event on Twitter, using the hashtag #CDPforum.

The Carbon Disclosure Project is a research-and-analysis organization based in London that represents more than 650 institutional investors, including BlackRock, CalPERS and large investment banks. The group collects voluntary greenhouse gas emissions data from global companies and identifies leaders among them in both disclosure and performance. Last year, 3,715 companies reported to CDP, including nearly two-thirds of the S&P 500 (pdf). Performance leaders included the Clorox Company, Bank of America Corporation and Air Products and Chemicals, Inc.

We'll be posting questions to The Grid between now and then. The first one comes from Anant Sundaram, a professor at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, where he created, and teaches, the first-ever MBA course on the links between business and climate change. He writes:

"Corporate sustainability initiatives are really about two things. First, they seek to improve efficiency in the use of natural resources such as fossil fuels, air, water, metals, minerals, and biodiversity resources. Second, they seek to mitigate, or even eliminate the impact of their use, by addressing pollution, CO2 and toxic emissions.

"In the past decade, there has been a quiet, under-the-radar revolution in hundreds of companies worldwide. They have been measuring, managing, and incentivizing managers to reduce the use and the impact of increasingly scarce resources. For instance, well over half of the S&P 500 group of companies today have created a senior level position – typically called the 'Chief Sustainability Officer,' or equivalent – to assume leadership on these issues within their companies.

"Driven by concerns about climate change, primary among sustainability issues have been attempts to reduce CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels. By aggressively hectoring, cajoling, even begging corporations worldwide to measure and manage their emissions, no other organization has been more helpful in leading the charge in making sustainability happen than the Carbon Disclosure Project."

Sundaram puts this question about greenhouse gas disclosure to participants in the Sept. 12 forum: "The quality and quantity of reporting from the country with the largest, and fastest-growing, emissions -- China -- is poor. How do you plan to get Chinese companies to report better? What role can their business-to-business customers in the U.S. and EU play?"

Sundaram's question is emblematic of a world changing largely without bold leadership from national leaders. Big investors and big companies are taking some responsibility for the problem, leveraging change where they can, and becoming leaner and smarter in the process.

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