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Corporate Social Responsibility

Yesterday, CDP (Carbon Disclosure Project) released its assessment of how companies in the S&P 500 did on CDP’s 2013 carbon investor questionnaire. About a week ago, CDP released a similar assessment for the Global 500, the 500 largest companies by market capitalization on the FTSE Global Equity Index. PricewaterhouseCoopers performed both assessments for CDP using information submitted earlier this year by the responding companies.

SP500 CDP report coverAlong with six other companies, Cisco tied for the top spot on the Global 500 with a disclosure score of 100 and an “A” performance rating. We were alone in first place in the IT sector. We were also at the top of the S&P 500 assessment (tied with BNY Mellon and Entergy). “Top” is certainly a great place to be, but I think we take more pride in being on the Carbon Disclosure Leadership Index (CDLI) for six years in a row. For a long-term problem like climate change, consistently high rankings over an extended period are strong evidence of a company’s commitment to improving greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions disclosure and performance.

Every year CDP, acting on behalf of more than 700 of the world’s largest financial institutions, invites companies on the world’s major stock exchanges to report their GHG emissions. I don’t understand the mindset of companies that choose not to report. Reporting energy consumption and similar basic data should already be part of existing financial controls and isn’t that difficult to do. Increasing CO2 concentrations in our atmosphere isn’t a problem that will fix itself, and substantial leadership needs to come from private enterprise. We need all hands on deck. Perhaps with the goal of universal participation in mind, CDP now lists in a Global 500 report appendix (and the S&P 500 report industry sector breakdowns) the invited companies that don’t respond. Perhaps these lists will help stakeholders shine a spotlight on non-responders.

CDP Global 500 report cover pageI’d also like to take a moment to thank the two Pauls—Dickinson and Simpson—for starting CDP. It’s really quite amazing that a non-profit could start from zero and create the world’s most productive conversation on climate change, with more than 80 percent of the Global 500 reporting their energy usage and other sources of GHG emissions. I believe close to 4,500 companies worldwide now report to CDP, either public companies on one of the major stock indices responding to the investor questionnnaire, or public and private companies reporting as part of CDP’s supply chain program.

Also amazing is CDP’s continued adherance to a high ethical standard, which I think explains why the GlobeScan/SustainAbility Rate the Raters report listed CDP as the most credible (11 points ahead of #2) and the least “non credible.” In addition, unlike many rankings by for-profit organizations, CDP avoids even the appearance of a conflict of interest by not charging participants for either the scoring methodology or scoring reports. In addition, as part of the annual survey process, CDP hosts a questionnaire consultation process, inviting comments and suggestions from all participants to improve the coming year’s survey. Such transparency builds trust, and encourages Cisco to make the investment needed each year to respond to the questionnaire in depth.

Because we think CDP plays a valuable part in the global climate-change discussion, Cisco supports CDP’s mission with membership in CDP’s Supply Chain initiative, with donations of Cisco WebEx service and video-conferencing equipment for CDP’s offices, and by hosting a number of CDP global events in Cisco TelePresence rooms around the world, including this month’s September 12 Global Launch hosted from our U.K. studio, attended from Cisco TelePresence rooms in Asia and Europe, and streamed live onto the web.

Switching from reporting to the actual problem at hand… the CDP reports indicate global GHG emissions continue to increase, so we all have a lot to do. There isn’t yet consensus on how to address the problem while this past summer, CO2 concentrations on Mauna Loa exceeded 400 ppm for the first time in at least 800,000 years. (Modern humans have been around for maybe half this time.)

Another facet of the problem—as seen in the following table—is the disparity in per-capita emissions between developed and developing countries. Fast-developing China, since about 2007 the world’s largest emitter of GHG emissons, has received a lot of press in this regard, but their emissions are already above the world average and closer to the EU than one might have guessed.

per capita

source

Like China, Africa also has more than one billion people, but with per-capita emissions less than 20 percent of China’s and plans for substantial economic development. What happens to GHG emissions in Africa will depend on the magnitude of the increase in GHG emissions from rising prosperity compared to the impact on emissions from slowing population growth, which typically accompanies increasing prosperity.

Big trends aside, what’s important today is that individuals and companies are demonstrating real reductions in GHG emissions without an impact on competitiveness or standard of living. Ample successes are out there. Driving widespread adoption of these proven solutions, as highlighted in the recent 3% Solution report, should be our current priority.

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