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Market News

 August 15, 2006
Global Warming and Corporate Social Footprints

 The Center for Sustainable Innovation has introduced a new application of its "social footprint" method for calculating corporate social bottom lines, this time focused on global warming. The report includes six detailed examples of global warming bottom lines calculated for BT, BP, Shell, Johnson & Johnson, United Technologies Corporation, and an unnamed university.

The Social Footprint's treatment of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by organizations is deeply rooted in the science of climatology. Each example featured in the report compares actual organizational emissions of carbon between the years 2001 and 2005 with what such emissions would have to be in order to reverse global warming and stabilize CO2 concentrations in the earth's atmosphere.

Only organizations that emit carbon within those limits can score sustainably under CSI's approach.

This approach to sustainability measurement and reporting is different from other competing approaches, especially those that rely on econometric or even ecological criteria. It differs from pure ecological models in the sense that it focuses not just on ecological thresholds per se, but also on the social question of whether an organization's contributions to mitigating climate change are proportionately sustainable relative to some collective plan of action.

The Center's Executive Director, Mark W. McElroy, said "This report shows that the Social Footprint has a mainstream role to play in the current global effort to mitigate greenhouse gases. What it shows us is that even companies who may be scoring unsustainably in an ecological sense can score sustainably in a social sense, both relative to global warming. As long as a company is taking steps to reduce emissions in accordance with a global mitigation plan, their social bottom line can be cast accordingly.

Many companies, in fact, are taking steps to reduce their carbon emissions at a pace consistent with scientifically-grounded plans to reverse global warming. BP for example, one of the world's leading oil and gas firms, achieved a high sustainable score.

The full report can be found here (PDF).