There are lot of problems in the world, and myriad ways to fix them. It's almost impossible to address them all at the same time. Sometimes, you have to prioritize. This year, for instance, the Carbon Disclosure Project's yearly Global 500 report, which examines CO2 reduction strategies at the world's biggest companies, showers praise on some organizations that have dark spots on their CSR histories. Bank of America and Bayer, to be specific, took two of the top spots.
This year's Global 500 report looked at CO2 reporting from 396 companies. The Carbon Disclosure Project has the backing of 551 investors with $71 trillion in assets, so it has some leverage behind it when it asks companies to lower their emissions and then be honest about the numbers. The companies are rated on both their carbon disclosure score (what they are willing to divulge about their emissions) and their carbon performance (their work in climate change mitigation, adaptation, and transparency).
This year's top 10 is a varied bunch, ranging from Cisco Systems and Philips Electronics to Tesco and BMW (we're assuming that the emissions from all the cars made by BMW aren't being counted against them). And then there is Bank of America and Bayer, two companies that are probably hard to feel good about right now. One is arguably a culprit in the recent housing crisis in the U.S, and the other produces a bee-toxic pesticide that may be contributing to colony collapse disorder.
And yet irresponsibility in one area does not mean that a company is irresponsible as a whole. As we have previously reported, Bank of America cut its CO2 emissions by 18% between 2004 and 2009 (the goal was 9%), and now the company is working on cutting emissions by another 15% by 2014. And Bayer is working on a big CO2-to-plastics project.
It's not so strange that CSR at Bayer and Bank of America is lacking in some areas but abundant in the climate change department; according to the Carbon Disclosure Project, companies with a focus on climate change offered investors approximately double the average total return of the Global 500 between January 2005 and May 2011.
"We believe that the external costs of greenhouse gas emissions will become internalized into company cash flows and profitability. Managing greenhouse gas emissions is therefore essential to delivering sustainable shareholder returns," explained Steve Waygood, head of sustainability research and engagement at Aviva Investors, in a statement.
In other words, cutting down on CO2 emissions is good business. Protecting bees is probably a little lower down on the list.
[Image: Flickr user CHRISTOPHER MACSURAK]