US Corporate Sustainability Falling Short, Ceres Finds

by | Apr 26, 2012

An analysis of 600 U.S. companies, released today, finds pockets of leadership on sustainability practices and performances – but overall the group has fallen short of expectations in four measured categories.

The Road to 2020: Corporate Progress on the Ceres Roadmap for Sustainability, conducted by Ceres and global research and analysis firm Sustainalytics, determined just 26 percent of companies are integrating sustainability within governance and management systems. The report also found only a quarter are disclosing supply chain monitoring and performance; and one-third are setting targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The analysis is the first major assessment of progress on a corporate sustainability roadmap released by the organization two years ago.  That roadmap, essentially a how-to guide for companies to achieve sustainability by 2020, outlined expectations in governance, stakeholder engagement, disclosure and performance. The roadmap was used as the framework to evaluate the companies, based on company data available as of Dec. 31, 2011.

The report, which used a four-tier assessment system, found just a quarter of all companies surveyed were in the the top two tiers for progress on governance, while 24 percent have some degree of meaningful stakeholder engagement.

Example companies

The analysis highlighted companies that were taking action. Alcoa, Xcel and Intel have been pinpointed as pacesetters in sustainable corporate governance practices. Baxter and Ford are setting high standards in stakeholder engagement; and Exelon, Nike and Coca-Cola are ahead of the pack in performance on metrics for reducing envionmental impact and improving worker conditions.

Coca-Cola, for example, was credited for being on track to meet its performance goal of improving water efficiency by 20 percent by the end of 2012 (against a 2004 baseline). The report noted other cutting-edge performance examples including:

  • Nike for its new partnership to implement a water-free fabric dyeing process;
  • Kohl’s for its achievement of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions at its stores;
  • Pinnacle West for using recycled urban wastewater (about 20 billion gallons a year) to cool its Palo Verde nuclear power plant; and
  • EMC, for building an energy-efficient virtual data center to move data from physical storage to a virtualized IT infrastructure, a shift that has saved the company more than $23 million.

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