What Corporate Climate Metrics Matter?

06/12/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Consumer climate action isn't just about switching to compact fluorescent lightbulbs or buying recycled. While people across the country are taking action to reduce their own carbon footprint, some consumers are using their power to push companies to take action themselves - and it's paying off.

In early May, Climate Counts released its second annual Climate Counts Company Scorecard. We launched our Scorecard last year with the hope that creating a simple, easy-to-understand ranking of companies would motivate both companies and consumers to step-up their efforts on climate change. We applaud the work of companies that are taking a leadership role in creating products that help our marketplace and our society as a whole become more accountable for the impact they have on global climate change.

With the release of the second Climate Counts Company Scorecard, we can report that many well-known companies have embraced a leadership role on corporate carbon management, not only through the development of products that reduce the carbon footprint of those who use them, but also through companywide accounting of the greenhouse gas emissions that occur during design, development, production, and distribution of those products. Companies that recognize the impact of their products AND the impact of their operations are both connecting the strategic dots for their organizations and modeling the kind of climate action that consumers should be following.

The new Climate Counts Company Scorecard shows a real shift towards greater climate commitment across most industry sectors -- with 84% of scored companies improving their Climate Counts scores. Looking at the companies that showed the most improvement--Google, Levi Strauss and Anheuser-Busch--shows the diverse kinds of great American companies committed to paying attention to global climate change. Of course, it also tells us which companies and sectors are still not taking it as seriously as they should be. (Click here to download our pocket shopping guide.)

But let's go back to how and why companies like this can truly lead consumers on a pathway toward real sustainability. When we developed our 22-criteria scorecard, we consulted academics and NGO experts who agreed that the climate metrics, or key performance indicators, that make up our scorecard were not only appropriate for measuring company climate performance but also represented a strong "transit" map for climate-conscious companies seeking a set of standards to drive their future climate action and innovation. Our evaluation of company climate action focuses on four key metrics, specifically whether companies have

• MEASURED their climate footprint
• REDUCED their climate impact
• SUPPORTED (or blocked) progressive climate policy initiatives
• Made their climate protection efforts PUBLIC and TRANSPARENT

Why are these metrics important? Because they represent critical components of a comprehensive climate protection strategy that relies on three pillars: government regulation, business innovation, and consumer activation. Only companies that are measuring their impact on climate change can develop innovations that reduce the greenhouse gas emissions resulting from their operations and their products. True business innovation occurs when corporations embrace a collaborative relationship with policy makers and with consumers. Corporate climate leaders are not hiding from what most assume is the future legislative and regulatory framework for climate protection; they're helping shape it to make it stronger.

Accepting accountability. Achieving real reductions. Supporting good public policy. Being increasingly open and transparency about climate action. We believe these are the measures of great, forward-thinking, future-friendly companies. At Climate Counts, we hope that next generation of great companies is not only comprised of those not yet thought of, but that it is anchored by the kinds of great companies and beloved brands that have been so much a part of all of our lives already. Join us in letting those companies know that climate change is an issue that matters deeply - to all of us.

A version of this post first appeared on the blog of The Climate Group's Together campaign which launches in New York City on June 5.