Grading Corporations on Climate Action
While climate action on individual levels is important, our daily carbon emissions are dwarfed by those of global businesses. A website called ClimateCounts provides data and channels for consumers to let corporations know that we are judging, and spending our dollars, based on companies’ climate performance.
Which Companies Succeed…or Fail?
Climatecounts.org’s mission is to “fight climate change by helping consumers use their choices and voices to put pressure on the world’s largest companies to take corporate climate action.” The goal is to encourage corporate climate responsibility and conscious consumption. The website and related smart phone app allows consumers to check the performance of companies in 17 categories, from Beverages to Commercial Banking to Media to Pharmaceuticals, for their climate impact.
The ratings give points for:
- Measuring climate impact – 22 points
- Reducing climate impact – 56 points
- Supporting government action 10 points
- Disclosing climate actions openly 12 points
Corporations wield a lot of power around the world. While negative publicity can be an effective tool for change, sometimes an expression of gratitude can also be effective. ClimateCounts creates a feedback channel from consumers to corporations in order to amplify the effectiveness of individual decisions and further affect corporate climate action.
Saying Thanks…and No Thanks
The rating system is just the start; ClimateCounts encourages and enables consumers to communicate their decisions via social media. This week, the organization is conducting a campaign to have consumers thank computer company HP (Hewlett Packard) — rated the highest among Electronics companies rated — by tweeting as part of their GreenWatching campaign.
I downloaded the ClimateCounts app for iPhone and tested it. Should I book my next trip to see my mother on Delta or United? Both are rated yellow or “starting”; Delta’s score is 43 versus United’s 35. In addition to helping you make a decision, the app lets you send an email to the company at the touch of button, or you can hit the “This changed my mind” lightbulb symbol, and ClimateCounts alerts the company for you.
Coke or Pepsi? It’s Complex
Buying prepared foods? Coke and Pepsi both get “green” grades for climate action, as does Nestle. Hmm. While these ratings are useful and interesting as far as they go, it’s important to remember that ClimateCounts is only rating companies based on their climate-based actions; social issues, financial ethics and even other environmental factors, such as pollution or use of toxic substances, are not included. For consumers, the first choice is to support smaller, local businesses when possible, but that rule of thumb is not useful if you are contemplating something like air travel.
ClimateCounts is a nonprofit that was created with support from dairy company Stonyfield Farms. Stonyfield’s climate score is a very respectable 83; however it rates only 5 out of 12 points for disclosing climate actions openly. Apparently transparency is a tough goal for even the most climate-conscious company.