Corporations Push for Climate Change Legislation

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

Top global and domestic corporations are behind two separate efforts pushing to fast track climate change policies. Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE:RDS-A), Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO), and Unilever (NYSE:UN) are among eighty-nine companies worldwide who have signed a statement urging governments to implement measures limiting cumulative carbon emissions, calling for a 1 trillion ton cap that would prevent global temperatures from rising 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), the generally accepted limit to stem the worst effects of climate change. Simultaneously, companies including Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX), eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY), and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) are backing a similar declaration urging Congress to enact proposed climate change legislature.

Signatories to both the global Trillion Tonne Communique and the domestically focused Climate Declaration point to a report released by the Intergovernmental Policy on Climate Change (IPCC) correlating rising greenhouse gasses to climate change. The study also details possible future environmental consequences, including rising sea levels putting coastal cities such as New York and Shanghai at risk. The communiqué states that through examining long-term economic trends and profit margins, participating businesses conclude that swift policy response is necessary. Their plan includes instituting a strict timeline to reach net zero emissions and an international shift in economic focus to fiscally incentivize the alternative energy industry.

The plan presented during Thursday’s Congressional meetings with members of Business for Innovative Climate & Energy Policy “BICEP”, that included leaders from Starbucks, eBay, and Unilever, outlines a more conservative strategy calling for greenhouse gasses to be reduced to 80 percent of its 1990 levels by 2050. BICEP’s statement emphasizes domestic economic growth potential and possible job creation with public and private investments into low carbon technology.

Environmental records for certain signatory companies have been mixed. Shell has been found guilty of committing multiple pollution violations, most recently settling with the EPA last year over Clean Air Act violations in Alaska. However, Shell’s 2013 sustainability report released this week outlines new strategies in place to reduce spills and improve air quality. Unilever has had a varied environmental history as well, cited for sourcing palm oil using techniques negatively impacting Indonesian rainforests as well as supporting deforestation in their paper production. In 2009, they responded to these criticisms by creating the Unilever Sustainability Plan, which reached its goal of 100 percent sustainably sourced palm oil in 2012.

Other corporations behind the dual efforts have steadily implemented sustainability models throughout their histories. Microsoft has been carbon neutral since 2012 and among other carbon reduction strategies, is working with local governments to “green” their technology through the Microsoft CityNext program. In 2008, eBay announced completion of a new solar panel constructed building on their campus that would supply 15 percent of eBay’s total energy needs. Cisco, too, has a sustainability strategy that has been praised by multiple environmental groups. Their corporate environmental policy outlines Cisco’s eco-friendly solutions, including an incentivized trade-in program and energy management.

Starbucks, a founding member of BICEP, began implementing climate change mitigation strategies in 2004. Their Coffee and Farmer Equity “CAFE” program, which Starbucks made available to its competitors, verifies and assists member farmers in producing fair-trade coffee and has similar practices in place for sourcing their cocoa and teas. In 2013, 65 percent of their new globally operated stores were built to LEED specifications. Cup recycling has posed the biggest challenge to Starbucks. While providing waste reduction capabilities in many of their stores, the company recognizes that the majority of their customers take their purchases “to go” and have called on local governments to implement recycling laws.

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