Wednesday 26th October 2016                 Change text size:

Apple and Amazon among 75% of firms failing to disclose climate risks to investors

Brandon Carson via flickr

Almost 75% of US companies are ignoring rules that require them to inform investors of the risks that climate change may pose to their business, according to new research.

Lawrence Taylor, a retired database developer living in San Diego who said he felt compelled to do something about climate change, has compiled the data from the annual reports of 3,895 public companies.

“Companies have a huge impact on climate,” said Taylor. “They are the highest consumers.”  

He found that only 27% of the companies mentioned climate change or global warming in their most recent report. Taylor found that of these 1,050 businesses, few disclosed real specifics about the threat climate change poses to their bottom lines.

About 70% of these companies mentioned that their operating costs might be affected by existing and pending legislation limiting carbon dioxide emissions. Fewer discussed how their businesses would be financially affected by the physical impacts of global warming, such as from higher insurance claims due to extreme weather or rising sea levels.

The toughest penalty that the US Securities and Exchange Commission currently hands out for not properly including this information in an annual report is to require a company to rewrite the report. Household names such as Apple and Amazon are among the companies whose reports do not refer to climate change at all.

Both are also among the companies that have not responded to the requests for emissions data from the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP).

In July, sustainable investment organisation Ceres reported that US shareholders filed 110 resolutions to 94 firms on sustainability in businesses exposed to climate change related risks, demonstrating a growing concern over climate change among investors. 

Resolutions proposed by investors focused on energy efficiency, methane and carbon dioxide emissions reduction and limitation of new polluting coal-fired power plants.

The investors submitted potential solutions after companies made commitments to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, gas flaring and adverse impacts from fracking. 

Ceres chief Mindy Lubber said, “The strength of this year’s proxy season shows unwavering investor concern about how companies, especially energy companies, are managing the profound climate-related risks of fossil fuel production, including traditional and unconventional oil and gas extraction.

Investors saw especially important progress in tackling flaring, hydraulic fracturing and methane emission impacts, all key contributors to climate change.”

Further reading:

10% of companies responsible for over 70% of greenhouse gas emissions 

What gets measured gets managed: sustainability in 21st century business

US investors hold firms to account over climate-related challenges

Melting Arctic could cost economy trillions as well as being environmentally catastrophic

Ceres urges investors to integrate sustainability strategies


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