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Despite Progress, More Corporate Climate Action Needed to Drive Long-Term Change

Image Credit: suzukii xingfu

Ceres has released a new interactive web-based analysis examining how more than 600 of the largest publicly traded companies in the US are responding to urgent calls to act on climate change and other sustainability issues, and positioning themselves for success in a world shaped by these unprecedented environmental and social challenges. This is the third assessment of these companies, which represent more than 80 percent of the US market share.

Turning Point: Corporate Progress on the Ceres Roadmap for Sustainability shows that nearly two-thirds of the companies analyzed — which includes Citi, Coca-Cola, CVS Health, Gap, Inc., Intel, Kellogg Company, NIKE and PepsiCo — have committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and more than half of the companies assessed now have formal policies to manage water resources. And nearly half have policies to protect the rights of their workers.

Using data from research provider Vigeo Eiris, the analysis takes a closer look at the progress these companies have made against 20 key expectations of sustainability leadership within the areas of governance, disclosure, stakeholder engagement and environmental and social performance as outlined in The Ceres Roadmap for Sustainability. The analysis identifies those companies meeting many of the Ceres Roadmap expectations to improve resilience in their operations and global supply chains, and calls on all companies to scale up action on sustainability commitments.

“We have reached a turning point,” said Amy Augustine, Senior Director of the Ceres Company Network and co-author of Turning Point. “It is no longer just about raising the ceiling. It is about lifting the floor. The time has come for bold and scalable solutions, not just from a few leading companies, but from companies in all sectors and of all sizes who need to transition from making commitments to taking concrete actions.”

According to the analysis, many companies aren’t acting quickly or boldly enough to future-fit their businesses. Sixty-nine percent of the companies assessed call on their suppliers to address environmental and social impacts, while only 34 percent actually provide the tools and resources to incentivize action. Furthermore, compared with the 64 percent of companies with commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, only 36 percent set time-bound, quantitative targets — and only a quarter of those targets commit to reducing emissions by at least 25 percent by 2020.

On a more positive note, Turning Point reveals that more companies are assigning oversight for sustainability to top-most decision-makers and increased accountability for sustainability performance is driving commitment and action. Ninety-eight percent of companies who have commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and 97 percent of companies with targets to manage water impacts hold senior executives accountable for sustainability performance.

The analysis includes interactive data tables and company scorecards that help investors and companies identify leading industry practices and key sustainability trends in nearly every sector of the economy including transportation, food and beverage, financial services, oil and gas, among others.

“As the tides turn with more mainstream focus on sustainability, we need concrete and comprehensive information from companies about how they are tackling environmental and social issues,” said Betty T. Yee, California State Controller and Ceres board member. “Turning Point is a critical tool for smart business decisions, providing investors and shareholders with helpful insights to better understand key sustainability trends and leading industry practices.”

Launched in 2006, Sustainable Brands has become a global learning, collaboration, and commerce community of forward-thinking business and brand strategy, marketing, innovation and sustainability professionals who are leading the way to a better future. We recognize that brands today have… [Read more about Sustainable Brands]

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