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US Companies ‘Lag in Disclosing Environmental Practices’

Only 16 percent of US-based Russell 1000 companies have adopted formal climate-change policies, compared to 39 percent of their global counterparts, according to a new study by The Conference Board, Bloomberg and Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Focal Point USA.

The report, Sustainability Practices: 2012 Edition, also says US companies lag far behind their European and Japanese counterparts in transparency of environmental and social practices. For US companies in the Russell 1000, the overall disclosure rate for this type of information is 10 percent, compared to 19 percent of a global sample of 3000 business organizations tracked by Bloomberg’s Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) database.

Additionally, of the 39 percent of companies in non-US developed nations that have a set of climate risk management procedures, 57 percent report emission-reductions protocols.

The Conference Board report covers a total of 72 environmental and social practices including atmospheric emissions, water consumption and biodiversity policies. For benchmarking purposes, the report compared Bloomberg ESG data with the S&P 500 and the Russell 1000, and further analyzes it across 11 business sectors and four revenue groups.

Other key environmental findings:

  • Only 13 percent of US Russell 1000 companies have a unified process to measure and report on energy consumption across their business activities, compared to 47 percent of the global sample. Similarly, 12 percent of US companies disclose their water consumption, compared to 37 percent globally.
  • Larger companies are more likely to invest the resources necessary to prepare a sustainability report. While 45 percent of S&P 500 companies have made the investment, only 24 percent of Russell 1000 companies publish a sustainability report.
  • Almost a third of US companies in the Russell 1000 (31 percent) say they have adopted a waste reduction policy including the collection, transport, processing, reuse, recycling or disposal (i.e., through incineration or landfilling) of waste materials. However, only 10 percent of the Russell 1000 companies calculated and reported on the total amount of waste (hazardous and nonhazardous) materials they disposed of. In the global sample, the percentage was almost four times as high.

A report published in June by The Conference Board found shareholders are placing more value on corporate sustainability initiatives and are becoming increasingly interested in linking performance to executives’ compensations.

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