All the sustainable business facts and figures you need

Sustainability leaders

National governments are the worst at demonstrating sustainability leadership, with 80% of opinion leaders judging governments’ performance as poor (ie with a score of 1 or 2, on a scale of 1 to 5 where 5 is “excellent”). The annual Sustainability Leaders survey, by GlobeScan and SustainAbility ranks social entrepreneurs in first place (with 57% giving the sector a score of 4 or 5). Scientific leaders and NGO leaders followed, with scores of 4 or 5 taking 44% and 42% of the votes, respectively).

The corporate sector’s leadership scores were as follows: 5 (excellent), 2%; 4, 20%; 3, 40%, 2, 30%; 1 (poor), 7%; don’t know, 1%. The figures show a small regional variation with respect to the private sector. Sustainability experts in Asia (32 votes in total) and in Africa and the Middle East (also 32) are fractionally more likely to judge corporate leaders as making an “excellent” contribution to sustainability than their peers in Europe (20), North America and Latin America (22), and Oceania (9).

At a company level, Unilever came top in the survey for the third year in a row. The Anglo-Ditch consumer goods company was mentioned by one in four of the 1,170 qualified sustainability experts that participated in the survey, up 8% on last year. The other most mentioned companies include Patagonia (14%), Interface (11%) and Wal-Mart (8%). Brazil’s Natura and India’s Tata were the only companies that garnered more than 1% of mentions from experts in Europe and North America.

Eco-building set to boom

The market for green construction materials is set to more than double by the end of the decade, increasing from $116bn at present to $254bn by 2020. A report by analyst firm Navigant Research finds the market for environmentally friendly building products is remarkably recession-proof. Growth in the sector will depend on a combination of pro-green policies and regulations, the expansion of voluntary certification programmes, cost reductions for green materials and consumer demand. The upbeat findings echo research by building firm McGraw-Hill Construction, which reckons green building will double from 28% of its market today to 60% by 2015.

Limited scope of GHG disclosure

Nearly two-thirds (63%) of the world’s largest companies fail to provide full and accurate information about their greenhouse gas emissions. Research by the Environmental Investment Organisation (EIO) also finds that eight in ten (79%) of large global firms decline to verify such data independently.

EIO’s Environmental Tracking Carbon Rankings puts BASF in top spot for GHG disclosure. The German chemical company is credited for publishing all 15 indirect (so-called Scope 3) emissions. Its Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions intensity measures 933 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent for every $1m of turnover. The footprint of the worst performer – US-based First Energy – is more than 10 times the size, at an estimated 10,342 tCO2e/$m turnover.

The study, which is based on the ET Global 800 portfolio of companies, ranks Italy and Spain in joint first for emissions transparency. Two-thirds (63%) of companies in both countries disclose complete data, with more than half (54%) verifying their emissions data externally as well.

US top for green incentives

The US tops a new ranking by KPMG on fiscal incentives for the green economy. The KPMG Green Tax Index singles out the world’s largest economy for the federal-level tax stimulus it offers investments in energy efficiency, renewable energy and green buildings. However, when green tax penalties alone are considered, the US drops into 14th place – behind the likes of China and South Africa, among others. Second place overall in the 20-country study goes to Japan, which, in contrast to the US, scores higher on green tax penalties than it does on incentives. Japan also leads the ranking for tax measures to promote the use and manufacture of green vehicles. The UK is in third place, although it tops the table for progressive tax measures relating to carbon and climate change. While KPMG insists lessons can be gleaned from the fiscal frameworks of all the countries studied, it relegates Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and Russia to the bottom of the table.

Assessing sub-suppliers

Almost one in three small and medium-sized businesses with a turnover of less than £25m have zero information on their suppliers’ suppliers. In contrast, companies with a turnover of over £1bn are more on the ball, with around eight out of 10 having some data on their tier 2 suppliers. The findings emerge from a poll of 131 directors, procurement managers and buyers by logistics consultancy firm Achilles.

400ppm carbon in the atmosphere

The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached the symbolically important 400 parts per million in May. The findings were recorded by the US government’s Earth Systems Research centre in Hawaii. CO2 atmospheric levels registered around 280ppm at the start of the industrial revolution, and have increased by 84ppm over the past 55 years (since the Hawaii centre was first established).

Organisation snapshots

Global Compact’s global network

The UN Global Compact now counts small and medium-sized enterprises as its most active group of participants. SMEs now account for 3,829 of the 10,706 participating organisations, 36% of the total, according to the annual report of the benchmark United Nations initiative for corporate responsibility. Larger companies account for 30%, with the remaining 34% comprising academic institutions, NGOs and government entities. Of the 3,262 large companies involved in the Global Compact, around half are from Europe (1,597 participants), one-quarter from the Americas (815 participants), one-fifth from Asia/Oceania (668 participants), and a mere 6% from Africa and the Middle East (182 participants). Spain has the largest number of participants with 1,377, followed by France with 863 and the Nordic Network with 541. The initiative boasts 101 Local (ie national) Networks in total, with Burma as the most notable addition in 2012.

Construction: reluctant retrofitters

European companies are “relatively active” in retrofitting buildings compared with their counterparts in other regions. A new report by the Economist Intelligence Unit, in partnership with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, finds that more than two-fifths (43%) of building sector executives in the EU focus their emissions-cutting efforts on retrofits – more than in the US (37%) and in China (23%), for example. The sector’s efforts still need to double, however, if it is to meet the EU goal of improving energy efficiency by 20% by 2020. Energy-efficient retrofits, or “deep retrofits” as they are known, currently account for a meagre 1% of existing building stock.

Answers in urbanisation

Urbanisation is helping reduce poverty and improve progress towards the Millennium Development Goals. In south Asia, for example, 60% of urban dwellers have access to sanitation facilities, compared with 28% in rural areas. Meanwhile, access to safe water in urban areas in developing countries was almost complete by 2010, with 96% coverage, compared with 81% of the rural population having access. As for urban infant mortality rates, these range from 8-9 percentage points lower than the rural rates in Latin America and central Asia.

The findings, which are based on the World Bank’s annual Global Monitoring Report, are not universally positive. Slums in urban centres are growing, for instance. The problem is particularly acute in Asia, which is home to three-fifths of the 828 million slum dwellers. Africa and Latin America house 25.5% and 13.4%, respectively. Cities and towns in the developing world are expected to attract 96% of the 1.4 billion people due to be added the global population by 2030. According to the World Bank, 970 million people will still be living on $1.25 or less per day by 2015. Around three-quarters of the world’s poor (76%) currently live in rural areas.

Africa on the up, but not universally

Sub-Saharan Africa is growing quickly, but benefits are unequally distributed, according to a new report by UNDP. The region’s GDP grew by an average of 5.4% in 2013, making it one of the fastest-growing regions in the world. Over the past decade, six of the world’s 10 fastest growing countries have been African. Consumer spending in the continent is consequently expected to grow to $1.4tn by 2020, $520bn more than in 2008. That said, sub-Saharan Africa continues to struggle. Almost half of its 800 million population lives on incomes of less than $1.25 a day, while about 239 million people in the region are currently malnourished. Life expectancy across sub-Saharan Africa is 52.5 years, compared with 69.2 worldwide. Africa as a whole also faces stark challenges. About 38% of the continent’s adult population still lacks basic literacy and numeracy skills, for instance. Low incomes also remain the norm, with 97% of all Africans earning less than $8 a day.

Company insights

Adidas ratings rise

Adidas saw a “substantial” increase in its supplier factories’ sustainability ratings during 2012, according to its recent Sustainability Progress Report. The number of strategic suppliers with a 3C-rating (good) or better on the company’s own internal ranking system now stands at 86%. More than a third, meanwhile, have a 4C-rating or better, denoting the highest level of performance. Among the other achievements highlighted by the sports clothing brand are the 26,000 hours that its employees spent volunteering on community projects in 22 countries.

Merck’s donations jump 49%

Pharmaceutical firm Merck increased its social investment budget by 49% in 2012. Its expenditure on drug donations and social programmes amounted to €11.8m, an increase of €3.9m on the previous year. One of the significant components of its drug donation programme was the free provision of more than 27m Praziquantel tablets to combat schistosomiasis (a prevalent type of worm disease) in Africa. Merck was placed eighth in the sector-based Access to Medicine Index 2012 (having previously been 17th out of 20 companies in 2010).

Corporate Responsibility Research  CR Cheat Sheet  CR Stats  CSR Cheat Sheet  Oliver Balch 

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