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Shame on you, Apple, Facebook and Amazon

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Major corporations are keeping us in the dark on their carbon emissions. Photograph: Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty Images


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Shame on you, Apple, Facebook and Amazon” was written by Jo Confino, for theguardian.com on Thursday 12th September 2013 15.00 UTC

There comes a time when naming and shaming is the only way to get some businesses to start taking their responsibilities seriously.

This is why CDP, the respected global NGO, has for the first time compiled and published a list of major companies around the world that are refusing to disclose details of their carbon emissions.

In the US, that includes household names such as Apple, Facebook, Amazon.com, Time Warner Cable, Comcast, Caterpillar and General Dynamics.

Shame on all of you and the other 90 of the 500 largest listed companies in the world that chose not to give CDP the data it requested.

Let’s be clear, the CDP is not some go-it-alone organisation, but is collecting the data at the specific request of 722 institutional investors representing $87tn in invested capital.

It is doing this work not for some academic or technical reason, but because the world is in acute danger from rising CO2 levels and it is doing its best to reverse this disastrous trend.

The information CDP collects sits on all Bloomberg financial terminals and is being used by a record number of investors to benchmark company performance and make investment decisions based on it.

As the CEO of Henderson Global Investors, which has almost £70bn under management, says: “We seek to ensure the companies we invest in achieve and maintain high standards of corporate responsibility, which includes the measurement and management of environmental impacts. CDP is a critical partner for us in fulfilling this responsibility.”

I know it’s a bit of a bore to read lists, but it’s worth highlighting some more of the businesses that still seem to be living in an age when it was considered OK to hide behind a wall of secrecy.

Other US companies refusing to play ball include finance giant Berkshire Hathaway, US healthcare corporations Gilead Sciences and Express Scripts and energy and utility groups the Southern Company, Phillips 66, EOG Resources, Dominion Resources, NextEra Energy, National Oilwell Varco and Marathon Petroleum.

In total, more than a third of the companies that failed to respond were from the US, with only a handful from Europe, dubiously led by fashion companies Hermes International and Prada.

The second largest block of companies in terms of geography, a total of 17, that refused to divulge information came from China and Hong Kong with China Mobile and Bank of China being the companies with the largest market capitalisation.

I approached several US companies to see what they would say in their defence. Caterpillar and General Dynamics failed to respond while Apple, Facebook and Phillips 66 all gave a similar reason – that they already publish their own data.

A spokesperson for Phillips 66 said the company “has chosen not to participate in the CDP as the company reports greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions publicly” while Facebook said it “already publicly shares data on our emissions, energy use, and energy sources on an annual basis. All our data is third-party verified by Cameron-Cole.”

But CDP CEO Paul Simpson will have none of this: “There is absolutely no excuse,” he says. “These companies clearly have made a decision that it is better not to respond and therefore there is something they are not happy to see revealed.

“They are ignoring a very large group of their investors. Companies like to tell their own story and package data in the way they want so they can tell a positive story.

“The point of CDP is that we make specific requests for certain disclosures so they can be accurately compared to competitors and other companies. Companies not willing to respond are clearly worried about being compared to their competitors.”

Simpson contrasts Apple’s refusal to hand over data with its arch rival Samsung, which supplies all relevant information to CDP – and ranks 12th among the world’s largest 500 companies in terms of disclosure and carbon-reduction performance. How does Apple compare? Well, the point is that we don’t know, although Simpson has his suspicions.


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