December, 2009

December 22nd, 2009

As technology propels us into the future by fitting our universe into computers, phones, and cameras, a question looms large: what do the companies that make them do in the present for our planet?

With the highest overall sector average (65) of any sector scored by Climate Counts and all twelve companies now in our “Striding” group of companies, the Electronics/Computer sector has solidified itself as an example for other industries.

Electronics - Energy and sustainability issues are hot topics within this industry, since an electronic gadget’s life cycle (ranging from the extraction of materials, to the production, to the distribution, to the used energy, to the disposal) has such a far-reaching impact on the product’s – and the company’s — climate footprint.

This sector has set a high standard for corporate climate leadership by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. A significant percentage of the environmental impact of an electronics product – much of it tied to energy use and greenhouse gas emissions – occurs before the product is ever purchased by the consumer (e.g., the mining of ores for electronic conductors is hugely energy intensive and corrosive to the land). And since many of these products are disposed of within their first year of existence, the waste generated by electronics industry is enormous. An entire life-cycle-analysis of a product reinforces Climate Counts’ belief that corporate climate leaders must take responsibility for measuring and reducing the energy they use (including the demand they create), the waste they generate, and the emissions that result — companywide — as they create what has become an endless cycle of new products. It is a challenge that takes the notion of real innovation to a higher level.

Internet/Software - The connection between the click of a mouse and GHG emissions of the Internet/Software sector can be hard to get a handle on. But consider this fact alone: it is estimated that a modest server farm (drawing a mere 25 megawatts) uses enough electricity to power 20,000-30,000 homes.  With server farms all over the world consuming millions of watts of electricity daily, much of which comes from coal, the Internet/Software industry is responsible for the output of enormous amounts carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

With a 23-point jump, Microsoft overtook Google for the top spot in the Internet/Software sector. Microsoft’s largest improvement was how its strong goal is resulting in reduction of carbon emissions. eBay earned 48 additional points (the largest point increase of any company scored by Climate Counts) for similar reduction efforts along with strong support of public policy that addresses climate change.

Yahoo! had a nine-point improvement due in large part to their reduction efforts around their data centers. Even with its own nine-point improvement, Amazon.com still falls short of its Internet competitors on climate leadership.

December 16th, 2009

Do the clothes you buy really have an impact on climate change?

With so-called environmentally responsible products everywhere, it’s become fashionable to be “green,” but is the fashion world confronting the realities of climate change? While boutique green fashion companies (that espouse sustainability as a key value) are growing, have the large companies that dominate the landscape improved their scores in the past year?

Apparel/Accessories - Nike continues to lead not only the Apparel/Accessories sector, but also received the highest overall score. Recently, Nike gained national attention leaving the board of the US Chamber of Commerce due to policy disputes regarding potential climate change legislation. Levi Strauss surged past Gap, finishing second in the sector. For the second year in a row, Levi Strauss was among the biggest movers, making a double-digit leap from 22 to 58 points, due in part to its leaving the US Chamber of Commerce because of climate policy disputes and setting strong emissions baselines.

Jones Apparel Group and Limited Brands made measurable efforts to evaluate and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions through alternative transport initiatives and energy efficiency programs.

VF Corporation and Liz Claiborne have scored at the bottom of the sector for three years running. These companies are lagging others in their sector which have realized the need to address the risks of climate change and the opportunities to engage environmentally conscious consumers. Although progress is being made at the highest levels, the apparel sector as a whole still appears disjointed in its response to climate change.

December 11th, 2009

You deserve a vacation. Why not give the planet a break too?

Climate Counts scored a total of 16 different Airlines and Hotel companies in 2009 and came up with some interesting results. When scored on a scale of 0 – 100 points, each sector began to establish clear leaders committed to combating climate change.

Airlines - The Air Transport Association (ATA), which includes all but three of the twelve airlines scored, has been urging the Obama Administration to oppose an emissions tax leading up to Copenhagen. The current recession has hit the tourism industry hard with the airline industry absorbing a large part of the economic pullback. The possibility of an emissions tax expanding overhead costs has prompted the ATA to oppose universal emissions regulations. As new scientific data continues to provide evidence of the threats of climate change the window for the airline industry to respond is shrinking.

With ten of the twelve scored airlines improving their scores (five of those improvements by more than 10 ten points) the industry as a whole made some big strides in 2009. American Airlines moved up from third to first this year by reducing their emissions intensity and committing to the EPA Climate Leaders Program. By measuring its companywide impact, establishing goals, and enhancing public information, US Airways made the second largest improvement of all 90 companies scoring 43 points and vaulting itself into second place in an otherwise low-scoring industry.

Hotels - Buildings account for 39% of the energy usage and 38% of carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. The US Energy Star Program estimates that on average, America’s 47,000 hotels spend $2,196 per available room each year on energy. That’s more than the average US household. Hotels can trim lighting, heating, air conditioning and water costs while at the same time slashing carbon emissions.

Hotels have significant room to improve and one leader to follow — Marriott Hotels. Marriott Hotels is the first and only company in this sector to be classified as “Striding” towards reducing its carbon footprint. With LEED certified buildings, improved supply chain management, and the expansion of efficiency pilot projects, Marriott has earned the outright lead in the hotel sector, more than doubling the next best score.

December 7th, 2009

Track Copenhagen in real time

The Copenhagen climate talks are off and running! To stay current on the negotiations, we’d like to introduce you to a great widget developed by MIT’s Sloan School, the Sustainability Institute and Ventana Systems. The widget simulates the impact of proposals on global climate change. You can get the widget here: Climate Interactive — the Blog and here: The Climate Scorecard.

And be sure to join Climate Counts ED Wood Turner for live, on-the-ground interviews with Copenhagen correspondents, broadcasted Dec. 7-18th at 9:00am PST. For more information on Expedition Copenhagen, created by the Will Steger Foundation and Stonyfield Farm, and to find out how to tune in, click here: Expedition Copenhagen.

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