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A snapshot of the sustainable business world this month
G20 emissions analysis
The world’s largest economies need to cut their annual energy-related carbon emissions by 6.2% per dollar of Gross Domestic Product between now and the end of the century to avoid a 2°C increase in the global average temperature. The required decrease is more than four times the current level of emissions reductions. Annual energy-related emissions total just over 30bn tonnes of CO2 at present, and carbon intensity (emissions per dollar of GDP) is reducing at a rate of only 1.2%, according to the Low Carbon Economy Index.
The index singles out Australia as the fastest decarbonising economy among the G20, with a carbon intensity reduction rate of 7.2% during 2013. Three other countries – the UK, Italy and China – achieved reductions of between 4% and 5%. France, the US, India, Germany and Brazil all increased their carbon intensity, meanwhile. On average, the seven major emerging market economies (represented by the E7) are reducing their annual carbon emissions by 1.7% per dollar of GDP. This compares to a mere 0.2% by the world’s seven largest economies (G7).
The index and associated report, produced by financial services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, finds that renewable electricity production (excluding hydro) in the G20 grew at 16% last year – in keeping with its trajectory of double-digit annual growth over the past decade. Renewables now account for nearly 10% of total energy mix in six of the G20 economies.
Gender inequality persists in the UK
Female directors in the UK earn one quarter less (25%) than their male counterparts, a new study finds. The imbalance leaves female directors with a take-home salary that is £21,084 lower on average. Bonuses are similarly skewed, with female directors receiving an average of £41,956 compared with £53,010 for male directors. At a managerial level, the pay gap stands at £9,069, with men getting an average salary of £39,461 and women receiving £30,392. The difference is accentuated among female managers over 40, who earn 35% less than men (equivalent to £16,680). The gap is narrowest – at 6% - for managers between the ages of 20 and 25. The National Management Salary Survey, which is published by the Chartered Management Institute and employment lawyers XpertHR, covers more than 68,000 British professionals.
Public transport holds huge promise
More than $100tn in cumulative public and private spending could be eliminated by 2050 if the world were to expand public transportation, walking and cycling in cities, according to a new report released by the University of California. The report, published together with the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, also maintains that improved public transport networks could shave 40% off urban passenger transport emissions, equivalent to 1,700 megatonnes of annual carbon dioxide. In addition, an estimated 1.4 million early deaths could be avoided annually by 2050 if governments began cracking down on vehicle pollution and promoting ultralow-sulphur fuels. The US currently tops the scales for urban transport-related emissions, with nearly 670 megatonnes a year.
MSC label grows from strength to strength
The retail market value of sustainable seafood carrying the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) label, a sustainable certification stamp, reached $4.8bn during the 2013-14 financial year. The latest figures from MSC show a 118% increase on its 2009 value. MSC-certified fisheries now produce more than 23,000 products in more than 100 countries and control 10% of all wild caught seafood worldwide. However, MSC’s Global Impacts Report 2014 notes that nearly one third of the world’s oceans are currently overfished.
Climate scepticism among Tories
An overwhelming majority of Tory MPs do not accept climate change is man-made. A new poll of UK parliamentarians finds a step divide between the two major political parties. Nearly three-quarters of Labour MPs agree that anthropogenic global warming is now an established scientific fact. But only 30% of Conservative MPs agree. And around one in five elected Conservatives, the dominant party in the UK’s ruling coalition, believe man-made climate change is “environmentalist propaganda".
Sustainability software market tipped to top $1bn
Corporate spending on environmental health and safety (EH&S) software is set to grow at 15% a year through to 2018, a report by corporate sustainability research firm Verdantix finds. The total market for EH&S software in eight leading economies, which include the UK, US and Germany, is expected to top $1bn within the next five years. The oil and gas sector will account for more than two-fifths (43%) of the market, reflecting the tightening regulations and increased risks faced by the industry. The projections are based on data for 9,307 firms with more than $500m in annual revenue. They follow Verdantix’s assertion that private equity and venture capitalist investors have ploughed more than $400m into EH&S providers over the past five years.
CDP shows going green pays dividends
Proof that it pays to be green can be found in a new study on the financial performance of the S&P 500, a benchmark of the largest US listed firms. The findings from CDP, a UK-based non-profit organisation promoting emissions transparency, show those corporations that actively plan for climate change risks have 18% higher “return on equity” – meaning profits minus dividends – than companies with low CDP disclosure scores, and 67% higher return on equity than companies that did not respond to CDP requests for information. High climate performers mark a safer long-term investment bet too, with their volatility of earnings over the past decade coming in at only 50% the volatility of their low-ranking peers. Dividends to shareholders of climate-conscious companies are also more than one fifth stronger than for those with shares in climate laggards.
New climate economy heralds rich rewards
Building better connected, more compact cities can save more than $3tn in urban infrastructure investment costs over the next 15 years, according to a report by the UN-backed Global Commission on the Economy and Climate. The high-ranking group, which includes climate economist Lord Nicholas Stern as co-chair, also estimates that farmers’ incomes could receive a $40bn annual boost through the restoration of 12% of the world’s degraded lands. The move could also provide food security for 200 million people. If policymakers were to adopt all the report’s recommendations, which also include phasing out $600bn in fossil-fuel subsidies and tripling research and development in low-carbon technologies, then 90% of the emissions reductions required by 2030 to avoid dangerous climate change could potentially be achieved. The report is back by the UN, the OECD and the World Bank, among others.
Greener appliances promise huge energy savings
Improvements in the energy efficiency of household appliances and electronic equipment could save $350bn a year and slash emissions by 1.25bn tonnes. That’s the conclusion of a new public-private initiative set up by the United Nations Environment Programme. The projection isn’t pie-in-the-sky, it seems. Improvements in energy efficiency between 1990 and 2010 have already reduced cumulative global energy demand by more than 25%, UNEP points out. The initiative builds on the work of the US Department of Energy-backed Efficient Appliances and Equipment Programme, which has generated estimated electricity savings equivalent to 600 large power plants. The drive for greater energy efficiency comes at a time when 1.2 billion people still live without any electricity whatsoever.
Wyndham cuts water use and emissions
Hotel group Wyndham Worldwide has cut its global water use by 16% and its carbon emissions by 13% since 2010. The company also reports that one quarter of its $2.1bn supply chain meets the environmental standards it sets for suppliers. The company, which counts 7,485 hotels in its portfolio, carried out environmental footprint analyses in more than 600 locations in 40 countries last year.
InBev hits responsible drinking targets early
Global brewer AB InBev reports that it has achieved four of its six major responsible drinking goals ahead of its end-of-2014 target. The list includes reaching more than one billion legal-age consumers to educate them about the importance of using a designated driver or safe ride home. The company’s other achievements include: providing identification-checking materials to 1.2m bars around the world; reaching almost 340 million adults with programmes that help parents talk with children about underage drinking; and training 390,000 servers and sellers of alcohol on responsible drinks sales.
Cisco saves $6.1m through green packaging
US technology firm Cisco eliminated 1.9m pounds of material and the equivalent of 3.1m pounds of carbon dioxide emissions last year through employee-led green packaging projects. The initiatives, which include bulk-packed products, integrated product shipments and the reuse of packaging materials, helped save the company $6.1m.
Chemical industry prioritising sustainability
More than two-thirds of chemical producers and distributors have a sustainability policy in place or are in the process of developing one, according to a survey by industry information provider ICIS. The survey, based on 958 responses worldwide, finds that 67% of chemical companies cite one of three themes as their top sustainability priority: promoting sustainable products, leading on sustainability issues, or engaging customers on a business level. In addition, more than one third are investing in research and development of renewable feedstocks, while 51% say they should reduce exposure to the petroleum market.carbon emission carbon neutrality climate change CR Reporting emissions gender gender inequality public transport transport