State of Green Business: Institutional Investors show commitment to tackling climate change

While it is not yet clear if business as a whole has made a firm commitment to sustainable and environmentally friendly growth 2015 was the year that the investment community made critical commitments to finance sustainable growth, according to Dr. Richard Mattison, CEO of Trucost writing in the foreword of The State of Green Business 2016 produced by GreenBiz and Trucost.

He identified The Montreal Pledge, which commits investors to measuring and disclosing the carbon footprint of their portfolios on an annual basis and which has been signed by 120 investors representing over $10 trillion and the Portfolio Decarbonization Coalition, which is now overseeing the decarbonization of $230 billion in assets under management, as collective action by investors. Institutional investors, such as the  US. public pension giant California Public Employees’ Retirement System and the Dutch asset manager  PGGM, have also made their own efforts to reduce the carbon emissions of the companies in which they invest.

The report found that around half of the largest U.S. and global companies now have Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions-reduction targets and even more have begun GHG emissions-reduction projects. More organisations are extending their reporting to value chain impacts — and more are assuring their data. The number of companies taking a more holistic, business-focused view of their environmental and social impacts by participating in natural capital initiatives is also on the up: 611 had made public commitments as of 2015, up 71 percent from 357 in last year’s State of Green Business and up 217 percent from the 2014 report.

However, there are areas of concern. Mattison wrote that the scarcity of fresh water is increasingly acknowledged as a major economic risk, compounded by intensifying demand and a changing climate. But the report’s findings show that relatively few companies report on their exposure to water risks — 23 percent of the largest 500 U.S. companies and just 16 percent of the largest companies globally, up from 12 percent and 10 percent in 2010.

In the 2015 report there had been concerns that the economic recovery of recent years had been at the expense of the environment. The largest 500 U.S. companies’ natural capital costs — the unpaid cost to the economy from pollution, natural resource depletion and related health costs — were up 22 percent since the economic downturn which began in 2008 For more than 1,600 companies listed on the MSCI World Index, natural capital costs were up 26 percent. However, the most recent analysis is more positive – it shows that prior to 2013, the average annual growth in natural capital costs was 5 percent, which slowed to 2 percent in 2013. In 2014, this growth slowed further, to 1 percent for the U.S. companies and decreased by 8 percent for the global companies.

What do Global Companies Say on Sustainability?

Find out what the world’s largest companies say about their sustainability governance in Manifest’s most
recent report: Say on Sustainability 2015. More >>

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