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Land and climate, key sustainability themes

When consumers think about sustainability, at the top of their minds is their impact on land and climate, according to a major public opinion survey by London-based research consultancy Future Thinking. Millennials (16-34 years) tend to look more broadly, incorporating the welfare of employees, customers and suppliers into their considerations – 24% of this group identified with these concerns compared with only 13% of consumers over 55. The importance that people place on sustainability issues differs according to whether they use social media (86% of social media users consider sustainability important compared with only 76% for those who do not use social media). As to what messages consumers listen to most, minimising waste to landfills (cited by 39%), using sustainable ingredients (37%) and using renewable energy wherever possible (37%) top the pile. As for the public’s perception of a firm’s sustainability commitment, this is based much more on actions (36% say this is important) than their principles and truthfulness (20%). The base for the survey comprises more than 25,000 UK consumers.

Future Thinking

Gender rights up the agenda for US firms

A record 407 major US businesses received a perfect score of 100 in the 2016 Corporate Equality Index, an annual ranking of lesbian, gay and bisexual rights in US workplaces. Among those praised for their non-discrimination policies are Bank of America, Google, Ikea and Apple. In 2002, when the index started, only 13 firms achieved the top score. Today, 60% of US businesses offer transgender-inclusive healthcare coverage (up from zero in 2002), while more than 330 major employers have adopted supportive inclusion guidelines for transgender workers who are transitioning. The index also finds that most (84%) large US employers now provide staff with education and training programmes that specifically include definitions and/or scenarios on gender identity in the workplace.

Corporate Equality Index 2016

CDP’s Carbon Action boosts emission cuts

CDP’s Carbon Action initiative, which encourages companies to commit to reporting on their greenhouse gas emissions and investing in low-carbon projects, resulted in emissions reductions of 641m tonnes of CO2e in 2015. This marks a 77% increase in reductions compared with 2014. The initiative has also seen investment in emissions reduction projects, such as energy efficiency schemes and low-carbon energy purchase, increase by 130%. Set up in 2011 by CDP, a UK-based non-profit group, the initiative is backed by 304 investment firms with $22tn in assets. Its remit of analysis extends to more than 1,300 companies from 17 high-energy sectors, ranging from oil and gas and electricity utilities to mining and transportation. Worryingly, nearly one quarter of companies in CDP’s Carbon Action sample had no emissions-reduction targets in 2015.

CDP’s Carbon Action initiative

Plastic bag use at Tesco drops 78% in England

In the first month of England’s 5p plastic bag levy, the number of single-use carrier bags taken by customers at supermarket giant Tesco dropped by nearly four-fifths (78%). Last year, customers of the seven biggest supermarkets in the UK used 7.6bn bags. Tesco, which says it will give the 5p charge to charity, estimates the new levy will enable it to donate £30m to good causes over the next year.

UK workers keen to volunteer overseas – with provisos

More than half of UK workers interviewed by charity VSO would freely volunteer their skills in a developing country if they knew they had a job to come back to. Respondents’ top preferences on where to volunteer split between Asia (39%) and Africa (39%). Of the 3,000 professionals interviewed, meanwhile, nearly seven in 10 were of the opinion that volunteering “helps reduce poverty”. On how long to spend overseas volunteering, most (80%) felt that two months or less would be ideal.

VSO International

Institutional Insights

Science-based reporting not there yet

Companies need to increase their commitment to science-based carbon reporting, a study by the UN Environment Programme concludes. While the vast majority (95%) of the 108 large corporations under analysis publicly report on their greenhouse gas emissions, only 8% do so in the context of the science-based target of limiting global warming to 2⁰C. The findings confirm research by the investor-led data analysis initiative CDP, which found only around 30 of the Fortune 500 set science-based climate targets. The list includes corporate giants such as Ford, Unilever, Nissan, Mars and H&M. This small coterie of science-based reporters could be set to grow, however. In the run-up to the UN-backed climate change talks in Paris last month, 114 corporations signed up to the Science Based Targets initiative, a joint programme between the UN Global Compact, CDP and environment groups WWF and the World Resources Institute. Together, the signatories have a combined annual emissions total of 476m tonnes of CO2, equivalent to the annual emissions of 125 coal-fired power plants.

UNEP, Time to Raise the Bar

CDP, Mind the Science

Science-based Targets initiative

Agricultural emissions overlooked

More than a quarter – 29% – of global greenhouse gas emissions are related to food production, according to a new report by Global Justice Now, a UK non-profit group. Much of these are “indirect”, however, and therefore hidden from mainstream statistics, the report claims. So agri-business Cargill, for instance, reports direct emissions of 15m tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. But include the emissions from the production of feed crops and from livestock, and the figure jumps to an estimated 145m tonnes – more than a country such as the Netherlands. The global livestock supply chain accounts for 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions (about 7bn tonnes CO2e a year), more than the total emissions of the US, according to the UN-backed Food and Agriculture Organisation. The impact of livestock is high due to methane (CH4), which is emitted by sheep, cattle and other animals as part of their natural digestive process. Methane is around 30 times more potent as a heat-trapping gas than carbon dioxide.

Silent but Deadly, Global Justice Now

City competitiveness vital to job creation

According to an analysis of 750 global cities by the World Bank, 19m new jobs could be created if average-competitive cities matched their more competitive peers. The top 10% of the cities studied achieved an average growth in jobs of 9.2%, compared to just 1.9% among the remaining 90%. The private sector is typically responsible for 70% of all new jobs in cities, the study finds. Annual GDP growth in the top-performing 10% averaged 13.5%, meanwhile, compared with 4.7% for the remainder. Money follows money too, with the most competitive 5% of cities obtaining as much foreign investment as all the other cities combined. The study throws up some surprising contenders in the competitive-city list, including Saltillo in Mexico, Tangier in Morocco, Coimbatore in India, and Changsha in China.

World Bank, Competitive Cities for Jobs and Growth: What, Who, and How

Company snapshots

IKEA on track for renewable targets

The global retailer IKEA produced renewable energy equivalent to more than half of the total energy used in its operations last year, while earmarking €600m for further renewable energy investments over the coming four years. The Swedish-headquartered company has a goal of producing the equivalent of 100% of its energy use from non-fossil fuels by 2020. Since 2009, IKEA has invested €1.5bn in wind and solar projects. Also highlighted in its recent sustainability report is the conversion of its entire lighting range to LED or LED-compatible. Last year, the company sold more than 90m LED bulbs and lamps.

IKEA 2015 Sustainability Report

Nestlé chocolate goes 100% certified in UK and Ireland

Nestlé UK & Ireland, manufacturer of iconic brands such as Kitkat and Quality Street, now sources all of its cocoa from certified sustainable farms. The Swiss-based food company uses cocoa certified according to both UTZ and the Fairtrade Foundation standards. As part of its commitment to more ethical production, Nestlé trained around 30,000 cocoa farmers in 2015. The company procures cocoa primarily from Ivory Coast, which produces about 40% of the world’s cocoa.

Nestlé Cocoa Plan

DuPont develops thousands of products in sustainability drive

US chemical chemicals firm DuPont has invested $3.7bn in sustainable R&D over the past three years, according to its latest sustainability report. Under its 2020 sustainability goals, the US company commits to invest a total of $10bn between 2012 and 2020. To date, that investment has resulted in 2,335 new products, many of which related to the areas of food, nutrition, agricultural sustainability and waste. By the end of the decade, the company commits to releasing a further 1,665 new product innovations. Among other highlights is the news that DuPont has already reached its 2020 target (set in 2012) of providing education opportunities to 2 million young people. Considerable progress remains, however, if it is to meet its target of improving the lives of 3 million smallholder farmers by 2020. To date, it has assisted fewer than 700,000.

DuPont Sustainability Goals

DuPont Sustainability Report 2015

LBG companies give 1.1% of pre-tax profits

Members of LBG (the London Benchmarking Group) collectively invested $3.6bn in community projects worldwide in 2014/5, averaging 1.1% of pre-tax profits, the network’s latest annual report reveals. LBG counts 173 participating companies, all of which adhere to the initiative’s guidelines for calculating their charitable in-kind and cash contributions. Around 93 million people directly benefited from the contributions of the LBG-compliant companies, of whom one fifth saw an improvement in wellbeing and 12% acquired new skills. In addition, 260,000 non-profit organisations received one-off donations or long-term support, while 600,000 employees engaged in volunteering during work hours. LBG is managed by the UK consultancy Corporate Citizenship.

LBG, Community Investment for a Changing World

Toyota’s facilities getting greener

Toyota reduces, reuses, recycles or composts more than 96% of the non-regulated waste in its 28 North American facilities, the Japanese carmaker reveals in its latest environmental report. Its Alabama plant has gone one step further, becoming the first in North America to reuse batteries from end-of-life hybrid vehicles as stationary energy storage (effectively giving them a second life). At its Indiana assembly factory, meanwhile, the automaker has planted 130,000 trees between 2008 and 2014. Employees at Toyota’s San Antonio facility in Texas reduced water use by 80 gallons per vehicle by installing additional filtration in the paint shop – one measure among many that led to a reduction in water consumption of more than 54m gallons in its North American facilities during 2015.

Toyota North American Environmental Report

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