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US Companies ‘Fall Short of Sustainability Goals’

A relatively small cluster of the 600 largest US publicly traded companies are leading on sustainability practices and performances, while broad corporate action is lacking and overall the group has fallen short in governance, stakeholder engagement, disclosure and performance, according to an analysis by Ceres.

The Road to 2020: Corporate Progress on the Ceres Roadmap for Sustainability, which used a four-tier assessment system, found 26 percent of the 600 companies surveyed were in the top tier for progress on governance.

Alcoa, Xcel and Intel are in the top “setting the pace” tier for their governance strategies on sustainability. More than half of the companies surveyed are in the lowest tier.

The report, conducted by Ceres and global research and analysis firm Sustainalytics, determined just 24 percent have some degree of meaningful stakeholder engagement. The analysis noted Baxter and Ford have been particularly progressive, demonstrating ongoing and long-term engagement with stakeholders. However, nearly half of the companies assessed disclose no efforts on stakeholder engagement.

The analysis is the second assessment of progress on a corporate sustainability roadmap released by the organization two years ago.  That roadmap, essentially a how-to guide for companies to achieve sustainability by 2020, outlined expectations in governance, stakeholder engagement, disclosure and performance.

This second progress report determined 49 percent, or 293 companies, are publishing sustainability reports with 29 percent using the Global Reporting Initiative guidelines. This still leaves almost half of the companies without a sustainability report, according to the assessment.

In terms of performance on sustainability, 47 percent of companies evaluated are making some progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions by reducing electricity demand, buying renewable energy and improving energy efficiency. About one-third of the 600 companies have time-sensitive targets for reducing GHG emissions for direct operations.

Progress has been made in the supply chain as well. Some 43 percent of evaluated companies have a supplier code in place. One quarter of companies disclose some amount of supply chain monitoring and performance information, including Nike and Hewlett Packard.

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