Autodesk, Unilever Lead On Reaching Science-Based Climate Targets

Just as most countries have set climate change targets that fall short of meeting science-based targets necessary to keep temperatures from reaching 2°C, corporations are doing the same thing. 

We have long scoffed at the array of targets we see companies pledging to – 5%, 10% or 20% reduction in carbon emissions by 2020, for example, from 2005 levels. Many choose targets they can pretty easily meet, rather than basing them on the urgent task of staying below a 2°C temperature rise.    

Climate Counts, which analyzes and ranks the world’s biggest companies on their efforts on climate change, analyzed 100 corporations’ (across 10 industry sectors) on how much emissions declined from 2005-2012. They compared that performance with science-based targets of emissions reductions required to stay below 2°C.   

"Instead of rating companies on the policies and procedures they have implemented to reduce carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions, we are rating them on actual emissions performance relative to science-based targets," the authors explain in the report.

Good News & Bad News

The good news is that almost half the companies (49) are meeting science-based targets, led by Autodesk, UnileverEli Lilly, Canon and L’Oreal. And 25 of them are growing revenues as emissions decline, proving that decoupling growth and emissions is possible.

Autodesk Logo

Autodesk, for example, uses C-FACT (Corporate Finance Approach to Climate-stabilizing Targets) – an open-source, science-driven approach tied to IPCC targets.

The bad news is that 51% of the companies studied are not on track – and do not set targets based on science-based thresholds.

Companies at the bottom of the list are: ConAgra Foods, Royal Bank of Scotland, United Parcel Service (UPS), Molson Coors and Weyerhauser.

The 100 companies Climate Counts researched aren’t your typical companies, rather they are some of the most proactive and transparent of all global, publicly-traded companies – measuring their carbon footprint since 2005.

"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% of the 100 largest economic entities in the world are corporations," says Mike Bellamente, executive director of Climate Counts. 

"There has been great progress made in how companies measure, manage and report their CO2 emissions," he says, "but it’s clear from this report that the time has come for corporate carbon targets to be grounded in science."    

Beyond this research, there’s generally a deepening commitment among the world’s largest corporations to addressing climate change. A majority have set renewable energy targets, greenhouse gas reduction targets, or both. But, like the countries of the world, they are moving far too slowly, and aside from a few standout companies, "rampant incrementalism" still rules regarding corporate sustainability.

Read the Climate Counts study:

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