BP plc, with long-term greenhouse gas reduction targets in place and plans to invest $8 billion in solar, wind, hydrogen and other clean-energy technologies in the next 10 years, received top scores among 100 companies that are working to develop climate-friendly technologies, according to Ceres, a Boston-based investor coalition.
Also high on the list was Chevron Corp., which added renewable technologies into its energy portfolio and set targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions. American Electric Power’s (AEP) decision to build the nation’s first commercial-scale coal gasification power plant and Cinergy’s work to curtail greenhouse emissions also placed them at the top of the power sector.
Ceres, a national network of investment funds, environmental organizations and other public interest groups working to advance environmental stewardship by businesses, analyzed how 100 leading companies are addressing financial risks and opportunities from climate change, whether from expanding greenhouse gas regulations, direct physical impacts or surging demand for climate-friendly technologies. Altogether, 76 U.S. companies and 24 non-U.S. companies in 10 business sectors are profiled in “Corporate Governance and Climate Change.”
Using a 100-point system, BP earned 90 points out of 100, while AEP and Cinergy both garnered a 73. Among oil and gas sector “laggards,” ExxonMobil Corp. bottomed out at 35 points, and in the power sector, Sempra Energy only earned 24 points.
Of its across-the-board leader, Ceres President Mindy S. Lubber said, “BP understands and is promoting the fact that all companies must work to reduce their carbon footprint, starting with fossil fuels.”
Lubber noted more U.S.-based companies “realize that climate change is an enormous business issue that they need to manage immediately. Investor pressure, expanding greenhouse gas limits and surging global demand for clean-energy products are compelling U.S. businesses to act, although many others still fail to recognize the enormity of this issue. Ultimately, management and board members at all 100 of these companies need to make climate a top governance priority.”
Using a “Climate Governance Checklist,” the report evaluated how major industrial corporations address climate change in five broad areas: board oversight, management performance, public disclosure, greenhouse gas emissions accounting and strategic planning. The report took nine months to complete and uses data from securities filings, company reports, company websites, third-party questionnaires and direct company communications.
The report ranked the largest companies in the oil/gas, electric power, auto, chemical, industrial equipment, mining/metals, coal, food products, forest products and air transportation sectors, with operations in the United States. The scoring system gave most credit to companies with a sustained commitment to controlling greenhouse gas emissions, disclosing data and strategies, supporting regulatory actions, and taking practical, near-term steps to find lasting solutions to climate change.
Three years ago, Ceres reported major U.S. businesses were doing little to address climate challenge, and the latest results are encouraging. However, “dozens of U.S. businesses in various climate vulnerable sectors — including leading electric power and oil companies — are still largely dismissing the issue or failing to articulate clear strategies to meet the challenge,” Ceres noted.
Low climate governance scores also were prevalent among entire sectors, including: coal companies, which are especially vulnerable to greenhouse gas regulations; food and forest product companies, which are vulnerable to natural resource impacts from climate change; and airlines, one of the fastest growing sources of CO2 emissions.
Douglas Cogan, principal author of the new report, said he sees important progress by U.S. companies that are beginning to build climate change into their governance practices and strategic planning. Still, Cogan acknowledged that the challenge ahead for all companies, including BP and other leaders, is enormous.
“Typically, CEOs and boards look out only three to five years when making investment decisions — about as long as they serve in their leadership roles,” Cogan said. “But the assets they put into place last much longer. Building a new conventional coal plant or a new engine factory for SUVs might make sense under ‘business as usual’ thinking, but what will happen to these facilities in five or 10 years, when they’re still not fully depreciated but facing carbon emission constraints?”
Company scores, profiles and the summary report are available at https://www.ceres.org.
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