We read all the reports so you don’t have to

Websites missing the mark

Companies’ efforts to communicate their social and environmental efforts via the internet are falling short, a new study indicates. Corporate responsibility websites are 17% less trusted than a sample of other online datasets analysed by research firm Change Sciences. Of the dozen major corporations studied, Procter & Gamble was judged the most trustworthy, with a 15% higher trust rating than the group average. The researchers conclude that websites are doing “little to change people’s opinions of the brand”. 

Gold Standard socio-economic benefits

Cookstove projects undertaken by companies as part of the Gold Standard eco-label are delivering $84m a year in health benefits, according to a socio-economic analysis by the WWF-backed certifier. Wind projects linked to the standard, meanwhile, are saving about $100m a year via fossil fuel import savings. The 54 wind projects under way generate an additional $12m in employment annually.

Such socio-economic benefits come in addition to the central goal of Gold Standard-certified  projects, which is to reduce carbon emissions. The standard was set up in 2003 by environment charity WWF to certify carbon mitigation efforts undertaken by organisations participating in the world’s various carbon markets. 

Methane milestones for US oil and gas

Methane emissions from US oil and gas will increase 4.5% by 2018, a report by ICF International finds. The projected rise is in line with growth in the oil and gas sector. However, the study maintains that the sector’s methane footprint could be reduced by 40% of expected levels if existing emissions-control technologies are deployed. The price tag for such a move is put at $2.2bn. Yet if the full economic value of recovered natural gas is taken into account, this upfront capital cost could be partially offset by economic savings of $100m per year. The report was commissioned by the Environmental Defence Fund. 

Green shoots in UK organic sales

Sales of organic food in the UK increased by 2.8% in 2013, the first rise for the sector in four years. Revenues hit £1.79bn in 2013, up from £1.64bn in 2012, according to the Soil Association. The growth rate outpaces that of the UK’s general grocery market, which was 2.1% during 2013. Organic foods were hit during the economic recession due to their premium pricing. Despite the recent rise, organics still remain a tiny fraction of the UK’s total grocery sector, which is worth about £92bn. Of the major supermarkets, Sainsbury’s has the biggest share of the organics market, at 29%. Four out of five UK households now buy organic produce, the Soil Association claims.

The findings come despite a recent study by the European Food Information Council, which suggests that sustainability claims make little difference to consumer buying practices. The report analyses six European countries (including the UK), concluding that sustainability information has “no meaningful impact” on food choices. Awareness is particularly low in Spain and Poland, where consumers are unable to identify the vast majority of eco-labels. 

Food companies reduce waste to landfill

UK food and drink manufacturers are drastically reducing the amount of waste being sent to landfill, according to new figures from the Food and Drink Federation. The findings show that the UK’s main supermarkets were sending 16.5% of all food and packaging waste to landfill in 2006. By 2012, this had dropped to 3%, saving 250,000 tonnes of food waste in the process. Recycling accounts for 28% of all waste management in the food sector. Nearly all (96%) of used packaging is now recycled, the report adds. 

EU revenue boost from green taxes

Key European countries could collectively gain a €35bn (£29bn) annual boost in fiscal revenues by 2016 if recommended changes to the green tax code were introduced. The recommendations, made by researchers at UK-based Eunomia Research and Consulting and Aarhus University, anticipate fiscal revenues increasing to €101bn by 2025. The report calls for new or modified taxes relating to energy, transport, air pollution, landfill, packaging and water use, among other areas. The study was carried out as part of the European Semester process, which seeks to promote environmentally sustainable economic policies at the EU level. The study focuses on a dozen EU member states, including Austria, France and Italy. 

China becomes largest investor in energy efficiency

China now outstrips the US in energy efficiency investments, making it the biggest player in the global market. Chinese investment in the clean tech sector hit $4.3bn, equating to nearly one-third of the total spending (which reached $14.9bn in 2013, a year-on-year increase of 5%). The US posted a total investment figure of about $3.6bn in 2013, reckoned to be about one-third lower than 2012. China has already installed almost 250m smart meters, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, which compiled the investment figures.

In a separate study, GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association find promising signs for the US photovoltaic sector. In 2013, an estimated 4,751MW of additional PV capacity was installed across the US, representing 29% of all new electricity generation capacity (after gas, at 46%). The 41% year-on-year increase in PV installations represents an investment of about $13.7bn. There are now about 445,000 individual PV systems operating in the US. 

Organisational snapshots  

Environment is major concern for Europeans

Four out of five people in the European Union recognise that fighting climate change and using energy more efficiently can boost the economy and employment, according to a study by Eurobarometer on behalf of the European commission. The findings mark a marginal increase on the 78% who held the same viewpoint in 2011, when Eurobarometer last undertook the poll. Nearly one third of Europeans (31%) agree totally with the statement, while 49% say they “tend to agree”.

The same study reveals that more than two-thirds of Europeans believe climate change is a “very serious” problem. A further one fifth think it is “fairly serious”. Only 9% believe global warming is not a problem. In general, Europeans identify climate change as the most serious problem facing the world, after poverty and the economic situation. In addition, 92% of respondents think it is important for their governments to provide support for improving energy efficiency by 2030. A similar proportion believe it is important for their government to set targets to increase use of renewables by 2030. 

Tackle gender inequality, says Global Compact

The UN-backed Global Compact argues that addressing “chronic” gender inequality must become a “top concern” for business. The private sector is responsible for more than 90% of new jobs today, putting it centre stage in the move to get more women into the workplace, the Global Compact argues. According to the International Labour Organisation, 45-50m new jobs are needed each year over the next decade just to keep up with the growth of the world’s working age population and reduce the unemployment caused by the global financial crisis. The UN Global Compact coordinates the Women’s Empowerment Principles, a set of seven principles endorsed by over 600 major companies worldwide. 

World Bank calls for responsible mining in LatAm

The World Bank is calling on Latin America’s mining sector to pursue policies that encourage revenue transparency, community investment, environmental responsibility and equitable economic development. The call comes on the back of an extended mining boom in the region. In Peru, for instance, investment in mining has grown from $109m in 2003 to $3.5bn in 2013. In Colombia, meanwhile, the share of public revenues generated by mining doubled from 12% to 25% between 2009 and 2012.  

Corporate insights 

Ikea increases charity spend

Ikea’s charitable foundation increased its total giving to $139m in 2013, up by 21% on the previous year. The donations represent more than 3% of the profits of the Swedish retailer. The Ikea Foundation, which has 31 partnerships with major charities, has a goal of helping 100 million children and their families by 2015. 

Tetra Pak pushes sustainable packaging

Two-fifths of Tetra Pak’s paperboard consumption now comes from sustainable sources, the iconic packaging firm reports in its latest Sustainability Update []. The Swedish company aims to become 100% dependent on certified paperboard by 2020. Three-quarters of Tetra Pak’s packaging comes from paperboard, which is made from wood. In 2013, the company also released the bio-based LightCap 30 across all its markets. About 1.1bn packages containing the bio-based caps hit the market last year. 

Fall in water use by Hershey

Hershey reports that it achieved a 58% reduction in water use (measured by per unit mass of product) in just 12 months. By the end of 2012, the US confectionary maker surpassed its 2015 reduction target of 10%. The transfer of production to a more modern, more efficient facility in West Hershey accounts for much of the improvement. The chocolate giant set a range of other sustainability goals in early 2012, several of which it has also achieved early. Six of its facilities now have zero waste to landfill, for example, ahead of the five it set itself as a goal. Its 2012 CSR Scorecard also shows that the company has achieved an 86.6% recycling rate, beating its 2015 target of 85%

Corporate Responsibility Research  CR Cheat Sheet  food and drink  Oliver Balch  trust  World Bank 

comments powered by Disqus