News | Subscribe News

Missed targets: when companies fail to keep their key sustainability promises


Missing Targets

After setting very public goals, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions, conserving water and cutting energy usage, many large corporations are falling behind or missing self-set benchmarks. Photograph: malavoda/flickr


Powered by article titled “Missed targets: when companies fail to keep their key sustainability promises” was written by Jennifer Inez Ward, for on Monday 21st July 2014 11.45 UTC

When the Walt Disney Company reached out to Rainforest Action Network for help in crafting a new sustainable paper sourcing policy in 2012, the non-profit was all ears. As the world’s largest publisher of children’s books and magazines, with more than 700m products sold each year, Disney’s paper sourcing influences the operations of 25,000 factories in more than 100 countries.

But after 18 months of working closely with the company, some of Rainforest Action Network’s officials have grown frustrated with Disney’s slow pace. “When we talked to them recently, they gave good reasons why implementation is lagging, but if it happens again, we’re going to need to draw more attention to why they’re falling behind,” says Lafcadio Cortesi, Asia director for the NGO.

In its latest sustainability report, the company explained that it held off on its plan to design and develop a paper tracking and verification process and system en route to its goal of using less paper and a higher percentage of recycled paper:

“In 2013, we focused on the design elements: identifying and developing business and functional requirements for the paper supplier tracking and verification system. During the discovery phase, we put a temporary hold on developing the system because we needed additional time to finalize a comprehensive and fully integrated system solution.”

Disney isn’t the only company that has stumbled on the path to meeting some of its sustainability targets. After setting very public goals, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions, conserving water and cutting energy usage, many large corporation are falling behind or missing self-set benchmarks.

Progress at a crawl

A Ceres report in April found that US corporations aren’t doing enough to tackle climate change and other sustainability threats. “While there is progress being made by an increasing number of companies and sectors, we are still not seeing the speed of change that is required – or the scale of innovation that is possible,” the report noted.

Part of that may come from a lack of pressure: If a company fails to meet its goals, there’s little blowback from shareholders or consumers, Cortesi says. “Voluntary commitments are just that – voluntary commitments,” he says. “It’s like, ‘Oh we slipped.'”

Some NGOs scoff at benchmarks anyway, calling for more ambitious action. “Our concern is that the companies are setting targets with a conservative approach,” says Cynthia Cummis, deputy director of greenhouse gas protocol for the World Resources Institute. “We want to see companies setting ambitious targets because that’s what tends to drive innovations and transformation.”

Of course, setting more difficult goals makes it more likely that companies will miss them. Andrea Moffat, vice president of corporate program at Ceres, says there are myriad reasons why a corporation may fall short of its goals. “You have to really look at it from a company-by-company basis,” she says. For example, some companies “might set genuine stretch goals, versus those that they can easily meet, or they might have acquired another company.”

Here are some of the top US companies that have failed to meet key sustainability targets:


The world’s largest retailer has rolled out a number of sustainability initiatives designed to lessen its environmental footprint, including scorecards evaluating suppliers in key sustainability metrics. And it certainly can’t be accused of a lack of ambition: its environmental goals include getting 100% of its energy from renewable sources and creating zero waste.

But while it has had some success with its goals, including its sustainability index and its expansive solar efforts, the company has badly missed its mark on several others.

Nine years after setting its goal of getting 100% of its energy from renewables, for example, Walmart remains at only 4%. It also has not met its greenhouse gas emissions goals. Walmart did not respond to requests for comment.


Pages: 1 2

Comments are closed.

A sample text widget

Etiam pulvinar consectetur dolor sed malesuada. Ut convallis euismod dolor nec pretium. Nunc ut tristique massa.

Nam sodales mi vitae dolor ullamcorper et vulputate enim accumsan. Morbi orci magna, tincidunt vitae molestie nec, molestie at mi. Nulla nulla lorem, suscipit in posuere in, interdum non magna.