According to a recently released report by the World Wildlife Fund, 58 of the United States’ Fortune 100 companies set goals in 2012 to either reduce greenhouse gas emissions or use more renewable energy in their operations. However, oil and gas companies are lagging far behind in this movement. Eight of 11 domestic energy companies on the Fortune 100 have not set internal energy goals.
This is in direct contrast to 68 of the planet’s 100 largest companies who recognize the impact of global warming and are making investments in greenhouse gas reductions and renewable energy goals. Sadly, energy companies represent the lowest participation rate of any industry worldwide. The few exceptions are Hess and Chevron who have both set renewable energy and greenhouse gas targets, and ExxonMobil who set a greenhouse gas target.
Why have three quarters of the nation's industrial companies voluntarily set some sort of environmental target? There are a variety of potential reasons including: policy pressures, public relations or perhaps even the forward thinking that sees renewable energy’s potential to someday be less expensive than, or at least competitive with, oil and gas.
And why haven’t most oil and gas companies voluntarily set environmental targets? It may be because the very products they put on the market directly contribute to climate change. There is also a lack of urgency to act; little pressure comes from investors or policies. An example of a type of policy that was successful in the past is the Environmental Protection Agency or EPA's Toxic Release Inventory, which worked by making large companies publically accountable for which potentially toxic chemicals they use and where they are released. Then the information is posted on the EPA’s website for anyone to see.
The planet would really benefit from a similar policy focusing on oil and gas company emissions, or better yet, a broader climate change policy such as a national carbon tax or cap-and-trade program. There are other options that could pave the way towards a cleaner energy future. The federal government could require that a certain percentage of electricity come from renewable sources and offer further tax incentives for wind and solar production. Many companies are setting their own internal goals, but for others such as the majority of the oil and gas industry, they’re not going to do anything about increasing efficiency and reducing their carbon footprints until someone makes them.
This year offered several events that shone a spotlight directly on the important and urgent issue of climate change, but the question remains, “Was it enough to bring about meaningful efforts to reduce climate change?”
June of 2012 presented the United Nations Earth Summit, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil which disappointed many as international representatives hemmed and hawed instead of establishing true endeavors to tackle global warming. Meanwhile the continental United States embarked on summer heat waves that were some of the hottest in its history.
This year also saw drought cover more than half the country; farmers suffered as their crops and animals died.
Then October of 2012 brought superstorm Sandy, this year’s biggest example of extreme weather and a deadly harbinger of the devastating effects of climate change. Can we continue to sit idly by in the face of all these signs that global warming is making broad changes to our planet? Should we leave these environmental problems for our children to face as we continue down an unsustainable path?
The close of the year is a time to reflect on the previous events of the year and make resolutions for the coming year. Let’s pledge to make 2013 the year where we confront climate change in every possible way. We can all embark on energy efficiency efforts; reducing what we can and lowering our carbon footprints. Every bit helps. Then it is a powerful combination to offset the rest of our carbon emissions. It would be a genuine shame to let the lessons of this past year slip from our consciousness while there is still time and so much that can and should be done to address climate change.
The Earth cannot use words to speak for itself, but if it could what would be on its climate wishlist this holiday season?
Environmental activists and climate scientists have done a good job of communicating the risks of climate change. Part of the issue is that it’s a delicate balance between scaring people so thoroughly that they don’t think there is anything they can do about global warming and encouraging people to make any changes that positively impact the environment, even small ones to start. Perhaps we’ve also underestimated the importance of personal experience.
The facts on climate change alone are not enough. We’ve had solid, scientific evidence for many years that global warming is man-made and happening right now. However, many people need to experience the effects for themselves in order for the light bulb to go off in their heads. Hurricane Sandy and other extreme weather events are helping people to connect the dots, but now that process has begun the question then becomes, “What next?”
We have a responsibility to be good stewards of the planet. That is what the climate needs and wants this holiday season. There are two main changes that we can undertake to fulfill the planet’s climate wishlist. The first is to lower our carbon footprints. Ask yourself, do I really need to leave my lights on all day at home when I am not there? Can I combine trips in the car to drive less or take public transportation instead? What simple steps can I take to save energy and myself some money as well?
The second change is to offset the rest of your carbon footprint. There are many affordable options to make this holiday season a reality, not just for the planet, but for future generations also. Any positive steps you take are welcome and really do make a difference. Although the planet cannot use words to thank you, reducing what you can and offsetting the rest is a beautiful gift and a wonderful place to start this holiday season.
For the past 85 years of operation, and the past five years as a CarbonFree® Business Partner, Neugart USA LP has upheld its commitment to tradition, precision, innovation and sustainability in order to deliver high quality planetary servo-gear-heads to its manufacturing and packaging customer base.
From its beginning, manufacturing gears for the watch and clock industry, through the development of small gears and customized planetary gears for step motors in the 60s and 70s, to today’s high precision servo-gears for high-tech automated manufacturing operations, Neugart has remained committed to operating in an environment that is as environmentally sustainable as possible.
“In line with our goal to become “carbon neutral," we commit to minimize the carbon footprint of our processes, and offset where elimination is not feasible yet,” explains Gerhard Anthony of Neugart.
Neugart’s CarbonFree® Business status is unusual for the gear manufacturing business, and this differentiator remains an important element in Neugart’s strategy to best serve its customers. 2013 will mark Neugart’s sixth year in partnership with Carbonfund.org, supporting reforestation and biodiversity preservation projects around the world.
As part of the US economic recovery, residential housing market values and housing starts are watched closely as a key indicator to economic growth and stability. Last week, Freddie Mac released its U.S. Economic and Housing Market Outlook for December, showing projections for modest but steady gains in both home value and housing starts in 2013.
These projections are good news for US home owners and for the thousands of businesses that depend upon new home construction, renovations, and an active home buyer/seller market. CarbonFree® Business Partner Clear Estimates is one of these businesses; one that has maintained a five-year commitment to operating in a carbon emissions-neutral environment.
Clear Estimates, a father-son owned and operated business with three decades of experience, offers a cloud-based construction estimating software that enables contractors and home renovators to manage efficient and cost-effective home building and improvements projects. Clear Estimates allows contractors to accurately anticipate the labor, materials, and their related costs that will be required for all aspects of a construction project and automatically drafts professional proposals ready for client presentation.
The Clear Estimates website serves as the business storefront, and their products are only distributed digitally. For the past three years Clear Estimates has implemented a “paperless” operational philosophy, limiting its carbon emissions footprint to the electrical energy required to run the computers and servers used for developing the product and supporting customers. To address the impact of their energy consumption emissions, Clear Estimates partnered with Carbonfund.org five years ago to neutralize their remaining operational emissions by supporting renewable energy projects each year.
"We chose Carbonfund.org because of its solid reputation," confirms Nolan Orfield. "As the leading nonprofit carbon offsetting organization it is clear they are a reliable resource for any business or individual hoping to protect our most important asset, the environment."
Five years ago, the Association of Wedding Gown Specialists approached the Carbonfund.org Foundation to create a unique program to neutralize the emissions from the wedding gown cleaning and preservation services offered by its members. ZeroCarbon™ gown preservations became the first carbon-neutral wedding gown cleaning and preservation program in the wedding services industry, and it ensures that the beauty of each wedding gown is preserved while safeguarding the environment. ZeroCarbon™ wedding gown preservations are endorsed by the Association of Bridal Consultants and Green Bride Guide.
Carbonfund.org helped to calculate the carbon footprint of the gown cleaning and preservation process and created a per-gown treatment emissions level to be neutralized. Each Certified Wedding Gown Specialist™ makes a separate per-gown preservation donation to Carbonfund.org, which helps to support reforestation projects that reduce carbon emissions worldwide. To date, the ZeroCarbon™ wedding gown preservation program has mitigated over one million pounds of carbon emissions, the equivalent of the total emissions absorbed by 11,000 tree seedlings grown for ten years.
The Association of Wedding Gown Specialists created a flyer about the ZeroCarbon™ preservation program printed on recycled paper in soy ink for their members to use, and they’ve added the ZeroCarbon™ text to the complimentary care labels supplied to wedding gown designers.
“My own experience with the ZeroCarbon™ labels has been very positive,” explains Sally Conant, Executive Director. “At my personal company, which is also a member of the Association, brides inspect their gowns before they are packed in acid-free wedding chests. When the gown is packed I explain that the ZeroCarbon™ label means we have offset all of the carbon emissions with a donation to Carbonfund.org to support reforestation projects."
"About a quarter of the brides say they chose my company because we do green gown preservations, and the rest are pleasantly surprised to hear about the program when they come for the gown. One bride recently told me it was very reassuring to know that she could care for her gown without damaging the environment. If it is a relative of the bride who comes to collect the gown, about a third of them say something such as ‘She will be so pleased. She cares about our environment.’"
The CarbonFree® Business Partnership program was launched in 2007 with the goal of helping businesses of all sizes – start-ups through global Fortune 1000s – to make a commitment to environmentally-sustainable operations and to keep that commitment for the long haul.
Six years later, we’re honoring over 100 small businesses that have been consistent CarbonFree® Business Partners for the past five and six years. One of these businesses is Moxie Bookkeeping of Brooklyn, New York, started in 2004 by Ean Murphy, with the purpose to serve small operations and to make bookkeeping a valuable tool for making smart decisions instead of one more hassle at the end of a long week.
While Moxie Bookkeeping does not sell ‘green’ products, they’ve made the conscious decision to provide services in the most environmentally-responsible way possible. This included joining our CarbonFree® Business Partnership program in 2008. Moxie Bookkeeping makes an annual donation to Carbonfund.org in order to support our carbon reduction and clean energy innovation projects around the world. In addition, Moxie Bookkeeping focuses their service on electronic delivery wherever possible, to avoid printed statements and checks. Their office products are purchased through green product providers and recycling is mandatory in their offices.
“I can’t run my business without using electricity and natural resources,” says Ean Murphy. “I want to make sure I am an active part of the solution.” Through her long-term partnership with Carbonfund.org, Ean is able to provide her holistic bookkeeping services in a CarbonFree® work environment.
In a telling and ironic move, coal industry giant BHP-Billiton, is replacing one of its coal export facilities in Queensland, Australia because of its vulnerability to increasingly frequent hurricanes from global warming. BHP-Billiton is an Australian coal company that produces one-fifth of globally traded coal for steel making and is the largest mining company on Earth. The upgrade represents a major investment in planning for climate change. In fact, the company’s coal operations are led by Marcus Randolph, who confirmed they are planning, “to rebuild the facility to be more durable to climate change.”
Readers of this blog already know that increasingly extreme weather events are the result of climate change in addition to the fact that many businesses are planning now for climate change’s effects. Why not a coal company too? The announcement makes it obvious that BHP-Billiton understands that climate change is real and the time is now to begin making changes even if the manufacture of their product contributes to the issue.
Randolph has even warned investors about the implications of remaining dependent on the non-renewable resources of fossil fuels by saying, “In a carbon constrained world where energy coal is the biggest contributor to a carbon problem, how do you think this is going to evolve over a 30- to 40-year time horizon? You'd have to look at that and say on balance, I suspect, the usage of thermal coal is going to decline. And frankly it should.”
When a company that mines and exports coal starts planning for climate change it means the writing is on the wall. Businesses and individuals alike should all be working to decrease carbon footprints and offset the remaining carbon emissions. Let’s give the planet a holiday present and start doing all we can this season to embrace a cleaner energy future.