August, 2010

August 18th, 2010

Who’s Behind Your Computer Screen?

Of the 310 million people in the US, almost all of them have watched TV, spoken on a cell phone, or typed on a keyboard, and the rest of the world is catching up quickly. The 6.8 billion people on Earth are linked to roughly four billion cell phones. That’s a lot of texting, talking and surfing that wasn’t even thought about twenty years ago. But cell phones aren’t the only piece in this societal shift. The past four years were full of indications of the pace at which the entire electronics industry is affecting our lives.

On April 9, 2007, after just five years on the market, Apple sold its 100 millionth iPod.

In 2008, the Washington Post reported that cell phone distribution was “the fastest global diffusion of any technology in human history — faster even than the polio vaccine.”

By the end of 2009, television penetrated 79 percent of households globally. That’s 1.4 billion households (and over five billion people) with television sets. In the US alone, TV penetration is above 90 percent.

Every cell phone, mp3 player, and TV requires plastics which derive from fossil fuels, metals extracted from the earth with great impact, and incredible amounts of cardboard and plastic packaging. And the companies pushing out these products are anything but oblivious to the impacts they’re having on climate change. But how does a consumer who cares about climate change, know the difference between IBM and Apple or HP and Dell? How do these companies compare in their commitments to climate action?

At Climate Counts, we track many of the world’s largest consumer-facing companies on their climate action (or inaction). By using only public information in our 0–100 point scorecard, Climate Counts exists as a lever to drive greater corporate transparency so that climate-conscious consumers can see the true climate action of the brands they buy. Specifically, we look at whether or not companies are reviewing and reducing their greenhouse gas emissions, the positions they’re taking on climate and energy legislation, and their clarity in reporting climate information.

As for the Climate Counts impacts on the marketplace, they speak for themselves. Ten out of the twelve electronic companies scored by Climate Counts improved their scores from ’08 to ’09. HP, Nokia, Siemens, and Apple boasted double-digit improvements. Consumers are waking up and raising their voices demanding real climate action from the world’s largest companies, and it is changing business as usual. But there remains much work to be done.

Even amidst all of this positive news, we’re still looking at astronomical amounts of waste from an $822 billion industry that is constantly rushing to beat out its competitor to the newest sleekest gadget. Compare that number to the 2.3 million employees in the electronics industry, the countless number of smaller companies supplying parts, the number of trips to ship products across the globe, the amount of energy used to mine the conductive metals and you’re staring at an industry capable of changing our climate all on its own. Overwhelming, to say the least.

Now step back and imagine what would happen to this entire system if we decided to base our consumer choices on corporate climate action. Imagine if these twelve companies committed to educating their 2.3 million employees about climate change. Imagine if they dedicated their $822 billion in revenue to onsite renewable energy rather than fossil fuels. Imagine if they gave every one of the thousands of companies supplying metals, plastics, and transportation for their products a choice: Address your climate impacts, or we’ll find other companies to do business with.

Feeling inspired? Now imagine if you could tell all of these companies directly via a two-click email or Twitter message that corporate climate action matters and you’re paying attention to the climate steps companies are taking before you buy their products. Would companies then take action in order to protect their brand reputation? Absolutely.

This year before you start your back-to-school shopping for cell phones, computers and MP3 players, help bring our planet Back-2-Cool. Find out who’s behind the products you’re buying and let them know that “Climate Counts.”

Mark Harrison is the Campaign Coordinator at ClimateCounts.org, he is currently running Back-2-Cool, a campaign focused on alerting consumers about the climate actions (or inactions) of the companies behind back-to-school shopping ads. Back-2-Cool is supported by these great organizations:

Teens Turning Green - Green Music Group - 350.org - Kids vs Global Warming - DoSomething - Alliance for Climate Education

August 9th, 2010

What do your clothes say about climate change? More than you think…

Most of us start our days the same way. We smack our alarm clock, wish it were Saturday, and get dressed. The scary thing is, the clothes we wear today reflect the votes we make for or against our climate’s future.

Every purchasing decision we make is a vote. Think about the number of socks, underwear, t-shirts, and jeans you’ve purchased over the years. If you are a parent, think about how many times your kids have tapped into your wallet for those same items. The numbers are staggering. MSN Money estimates that the average-income, dual-parent household, will spend over $170,000 on toys, education, food and clothes on a child from the time she is born until 17 years of age. In 2010, it is estimated that the average two-child family will spend over $1,200 on back-to-school shopping alone. Multiply this by the number of US families, and we’re looking at billions of dollars of revenue for clothing companies.

Amidst this segment of annual consumption cycle, two things are happening: first, kids are being told by huge corporations what is cool and green before going back-to-school shopping, and second, our planet is getting warmer – significantly in fact. Last year, NASA determined that the previous decade was the warmest on record, with 2005 the hottest year in recorded history, and it’s a record well on its way to being broken. According to the National Climate Data Center, we just experienced the warmest April, May and June on record. All of our driving, eating, flying, and shopping is having an impact on our climate. Feeling guilty? Hang in there — it gets worse before it gets better.

The bad news. Even if we scale back as much as possible and try to remove ourselves from the cycle of consumption, we’re still living on a warming planet. We can’t stop the greenhouse gases emitted in previous decades from trapping more heat.

The good news. We cast votes every day for our future. Every pair of shoes, every shirt, every dress, every hat is a choice, choices that can be turned into votes for climate action and yes, maybe even revived interest from Congress in moving on climate legislation that will ease the management of greenhouse gas emissions for businesses and communities.

Companies track our consumer choices and then live or die by the money we spend. If we as conscious consumers really care about climate change and sustainability, we’ll pay attention to the climate actions (or inactions) of companies and make more informed choices.

Climate-conscious consumers will take heed of companies like Timberland and REI which have shown self-motivated commitment to engaging consumers on the ways they are trying to tackle climate change (both are charter members of Climate Counts’ Industry Innovators program). They’ll notice Timberland’s climate nutrition label which outlines the environmental impacts of a products packaging, chemicals, and the amount of renewable energy used to manufacture their products. They’ll notice REI’s investment of over 860 kilowatts of on-site energy generation. And, they’ll flex their consumer muscles by telling VF Corporation (parent company of The North Face, Nautica, Wrangler and more) they appreciate it’s finally gotten the message that corporate climate action matters.

Before you start spending on back-to-school clothes this year, think about where your dollars are going and tell those companies you’re paying attention to their climate change actions…if you say something, they’ll listen.

Mark Harrison is the Campaign Coordinator at ClimateCounts.org, he is currently running Back-2-Cool, a campaign focused on alerting consumers about the climate actions (or inactions) of the companies behind back-to-school shopping ads. Back-2-Cool is supported by these great organizations:

Teens Turning Green - Green Music Group - 350.org - Kids vs Global Warming - DoSomething - Alliance for Climate Education

  • Brighter Planet's 350 Challenge