U.S. companies are making big strides in paper use, recycling and green building, but falling behind on reporting and other sustainability metrics, according to GreenBiz’s State of Green Business Report 2011, just released yesterday.
GreenBiz’s State of Green Business 2011 report (pdf) says that U.S. companies lag behind European and Asian firms on corporate reporting, with even S&P 500 companies in the Carbon Disclosure Project’s Leadership Index scoring significantly lower than their overseas counterparts.
S&P 500 companies filed 230 non-financial reports in 2010, 97 of them compliant with Global Reporting Initiative standards. Just 9.6 percent of the reports were vetted by third parties, while in Europe such rates run in the low-to-mid 20 percent range.
Remote working is also faring poorly in the U.S., the report finds. In a weak economy, teleworkers believe that their lack of physical presence in the office may make them more vulnerable to being laid off, the report argues.
The report also says that while U.S. companies are reducing their carbon emissions per dollar of GDP, the decline is nowhere near what is needed. And it said that electronic consumption is producing “mountains” of e-waste, growing faster than recyclers can handle.
But the report described noticeable improvements in other areas. The number of clean-energy patents has soared, and new opportunities in solar and electric vehicle technology have piqued investors’ interest.
Paper use declined for the second year running, the report said, as the percentage of used paper recovered for recycling rose by its fastest rate ever.
“Paper intensity — the amount of paper used to power our economy — has been one of the shining examples of progress over the past few years,” the report said.
Companies are also getting smarter about their energy use, the report said. Certifications under most LEED certification systems for commercial buildings increased in 2010. Companies are building fewer LEED-certified buildings, but increasingly greening existing building stock.
The report highlights several aggressive new commitments by companies:
- Proctor & Gamble pledged to power all factories with renewable energy within the next ten years.
- FedEx said it will improve vehicle fuel efficiency by 20 percent by 2020.
- Walmart committed to sell $1 billion of fresh produce procured from 1,000 small- and medium-sized farming operations.
- Hasbro pledged to derive 75 percent of its paperboard packaging from recycled materials in 2011.
The report also predicted ten important green business trends for the year ahead:
- Consumer packaged goods companies will lead the way on sustainability efforts
- More companies will aim for zero waste
- Operations in developing countries will continue to pose difficulties for the supply chain
- The transportation sector will keep introducing new green technologies and practices
- Sustainable food will become more mainstream
- Greenhouse gas reporting will become the rule
- Manufacturers will come up with ways to eliminate toxic ingredients
- More companies will measure their “water footprint”
- Corporations will begin closing the recycling loop, using their old products to make new ones
- Companies will keep trying out innovative bioplastics.
Image: Courtesy of GreenBiz