Business Is Getting More Sustainable. Too Bad It’s Not Good Enough

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For all the political controversy in the U.S. over climate change—and the resulting gridlock—much of corporate America has been surprisingly far-seeing on global warming, even if it’s not always something CEOs like to talk about. Earlier this month, the environmental company CDP reported that at least 29 companies—including oil and gas corporations like ExxonMobil that have financed climate skeptics in the past—have begun incorporating a price on carbon into their long-term plans. They know that climate change is real, and that any financially responsible corporation needs to prepare for a future in which carbon will be a regulated substance. Politicians—especially in Congress—may have the luxury of letting ideology trump facts, but CEOs who answer to shareholders don’t. Still, thinking about climate change in the future is not the same as acting on it now. That’s the takeaway from a new report from the nonprofits Climate Counts and the Center for Sustainable Organizations that analyzed the climate sustainability of 100 of the largest companies in the world. According to a metric designed by the groups, 51 of the companies surveyed are emitting unsustainable levels of carbon dioxide. That means that they’re producing more than the share of carbon—as a part of their economic production—than can be allowed if the world is to keep warming to no more than 2° C (3.6° F) above pre-industrial levels. (Many scientists—though not all— believe that 2° C is a level of warming that represents a red line for dangerous climate change.) While the study’s results mean that nearly half of the companies surveyed are on a sustainable track—led by the design company Autodesk and the consumer giant Unilver—that’s not good enough, not when 40% of the world’s biggest economic entities are corporations. (MORE: At the Farm and the Brewery, MillerCoors Gets More Beer to the Barrel with Water Efficiency There are other caveats: the study could only look at those companies that have chosen to release their carbon emissions publicly, going back to 2005. (The research covers 2005 to 2012.) Not every company has chosen to be open about what

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