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This year’s Climate Week comes one month after the IPCC reported unequivocally that climate change is “rapid, widespread, and intensifying,” and that human influence is the key driver. While it is too late to reverse some of the negative impacts, the report also found that “strong and sustained” reductions of greenhouse gases could lead to temperature stabilization in 20-30 years. Corporate leaders have made high-profile announcements in support of this: Jeff Bezos’ $1 billion pledge to conservation efforts for the rest of the year, Salesforce achieving net zero emissions and 100% renewable energy, and McDonald’s removing most plastics from Happy Meal toys. The Climate Group, the nonprofit working with the United Nations to run Climate Week, also awarded Google for its leadership, along with 3M, The Esteé Lauder Companies, and the Danish pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk.
Stepping back though, how are the world’s largest companies doing overall?
Speaking to JUST in a new interview, Andrew Winston, co-author with Paul Polman of the upcoming book “Net Positive” and a premiere corporate sustainability consultant, clearly believes the extent of actual progress made against goals set can be disheartening. But he does acknowledge that virtually every large company now has a sustainability plan, and considers that a victory.
Consumer and employee pressure to act is one reason for this. In our latest survey with The Harris Poll, we found that three-quarters of respondents said companies can have a high or moderate impact on slowing climate change by ensuring all aspects of their business are sustainable, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, manufacturing environmentally friendly products, and transitioning to clean energy.
That said, as Laura Thornton and Shannon Cabral on our Research team found, only 42.8% of the 962 companies in the JUST Rankings have disclosed a commitment to reduce emissions.
Leading companies “are just far ahead of the average or the lagging company,” Winston said. To get more companies to follow these leaders, he believes, we need to better define what success looks like and, importantly, see the environment as a key stakeholder that is inextricably linked to all the others.
This Week in Stakeholder Capitalism
Amazon, Chobani, UPS, and over 30 other companies are vowing to hire and train Afghan refugees currently fleeing to the U.S.
BlackRock, General Motors, American Airlines, Boston Consulting Group, Bank of America, Microsoft, and more have given hundreds of millions to Breakthrough Energy, a nonprofit founded by Bill Gates to create clean technology solutions in the push to a zero-carbon economy.
GM will invest $50 million into Detroit-based nonprofit programs that expand access to education and employment opportunities, and strengthen city neighborhoods.
Mastercard is granting $5 million to Morehouse and Spelman Colleges for Black entrepreneurship initiatives.
McDonald’s is pledging to make their happy meal toys from recyclable/renewable materials to cut down on the amount of plastic they use.
Salesforce has reached net-zero emissions across its value chain, including customer energy use.
Target is cutting back on the amount of seasonal workers this holiday season, instead creating an app that allows current employees to take more holiday hours as they see fit.
What’s Happening at JUST
Our latest data analysis examining corporate climate commitments and survey analysisinvestigating how the public wants corporate America to address climate change were featured in Fortune’s CEO Daily. And if you missed our Climate Week event with C2ES, UN Global Compact, and WRI, check out the replay and key takeaways on what to look for in corporate climate commitments.
Last week, leaders from our first cohort of companies joining the Worker Financial Wellness Initiative – including Chipotle and Prudential – joined the Aspen Institute and Wall Street Journal reporter Lauren Weber to discuss what’s driving their investments in worker well-being and how its strengthening their operations, recruitment, and retention for a post-pandemic economy. Watch the discussion, read key insights and reach out to join this growing community of practice!
“At some point in our lives, almost everyone who works will need time away from their job to take care of themselves or someone they love. A new baby, an aging parent, a sick family member, a startling diagnosis: these are constants of life. Workers want to know that when the inevitable happens, they’ll be able to stay connected to their jobs and maintain some financial security.”
- Melinda French Gates penning a new editorial in Time on why it’s time for national paid family and medical leave.
“Offering employees the option of investing in environmental, social and governance (ESG) funds in their 401(k) retirement-savings plans is essential. If individuals are making clear that they want the option to invest this way, there is no good reason to deny them the opportunity to do so in their 401(k) accounts.”
- Aaron Yoon, assistant professor of accounting & information management at the Kellogg School of Management, in The Wall Street Journal’s ESG Debate Column
“Different companies, different sectors are going to have different greenhouse gas emissions. This is why I would love it if the greenhouse gas inventories became a common ledger that people understood like a profit and loss statement. Because you can see very quickly what is a credible commitment if you understand what the actual emissions portfolio of a company is.”
- Verena Radulovic, Vice President of Business Engagement at the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions speaking to the importance of considering industry and carbon intensityin evaluating corporate climate commitments.
Must-Reads of the Week
Axios reveals that the average American work week has gotten 10% longer during the pandemic. And mental health issues are on the rise: According to a new survey reported in Fortune, two-thirds of U.S. employees have clinically measurable mental health symptoms of anxiety or depression.
The Washington Post examines the problem of large swaths of child care workers quitting just as most companies are beginning to ask employees to return to the office. Forbes covers a new 28-page report by the Treasury Department’s Office of Economic Policy, which paints a grim picture of our broken, underfunded child care system. And Melinda French Gates pens an op-ed in Times Magazine on why caregivers need national paid leave.
The latest Morning Consult/Axios Inequality Index shows that the slowdown in economic activity caused by the Delta variant disproportionately affected economic outcomes of low income adults, driving inequality higher in September.
Insider speaks with the Responsible Sourcing Network, a nonprofit focused on championing human rights in supply chains, which has worked with several companies to boycott producers who use forced labor.
NYT’s DealBook makes a case that the current plans to tax stock buybacks to curb executive pay are flawed and won’t actually address the issue.
Chart of the Week
This week’s chart comes from our latest corporate climate commitment research, and shows that out of the Russell 1000 companies we track and analyze, only 102 have committed to reaching Net Zero emissions by 2050.