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New Study Shows 51 of Top 100 Companies Emitting Unsustainable Levels of CO2

Today, Climate Counts and the Center for Sustainable Organizations (CSO) released a collaborative report, Assessing Corporate Emissions Performance through the Lens of Climate Science, which revealed that, surprisingly, almost half of the Top 100 companies analyzed rated sustainably in the study, with Autodesk, Unilever and Eli Lilly earning the three top spots in the rating.

Of the 49 companies that scored sustainably, 25 of those exhibited revenue growth even as their emissions declined, proving that decoupling of growth and emissions is possible.

"This notion of context-based metrics that integrate market share makes a ton of sense,” said Gretchen Hancock, Manager of Resource Optimization at GE. “Asking if we're really reducing our emissions faster than we’re growing the business [and testing whether] the broader business community also has the power, creativity and innovation to decouple emissions reductions from economic growth.

The purpose of the study was to assess the emissions performance of 100 companies from 2005 to 2012 within the context of climate science to identify the number of companies on a sustainable emissions path. While sovereign nations must come to an agreement on how global emissions reductions are achieved, there is also a role to be played by the business community, as 40 percent of the 100 largest economic entities in the world are corporations.

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To assess sustainability performance, Climate Counts and CSO used factors such as emissions output and financial performance (contribution to gross domestic product) to assign a company-level carbon budget and to determine whether a company’s emissions are on track with the reductions called for by the scientific community. For this effort, any company scoring less than or equal to one (≤ 1) is considered “sustainable,” while any company scoring greater than one (>1) is “unsustainable.”

“Most of what passes for best practice in sustainability measurement and reporting today falls short of the mark, precisely because it fails to take real social and environmental thresholds into account,” said Mark McElroy, Founder and Executive Director of the Center for Sustainable Organizations. “What businesses need, instead, are science- and context-based tools that bring meaning to measurement. The context-based carbon metric used in this study can help show the way."

In addition to the study, Climate Counts is launching a consumer-facing webpage offering bite-sized sharable facts from the report, with a heavy emphasis on social sharing.

“We’ve packaged the results of our study in a way that the average reader can digest our findings without having a degree in science,” said Mike Bellamente, Executive Director of Climate Counts. “As a consumer-facing organization, the hope is that we’ll spark a connection about the role of the citizen in addressing climate change through their own consumption habits and buying behaviors.”

In September at the New Metrics of Sustainable Business Conference, Climate Counts presented initial findings of the first-ever science-based rating of corporate carbon emissions. The study applies CSO's Context-Based Carbon Metric, which compares company carbon emissions to science-based targets.


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