Unilever tops list for sustainability reporting

Unilever, Marks & Spencer and BT rank highest for sustainability reporting practices in FTSE 100 businesses, according to a report.

The report, by environmental consultancy EcoAct, warned while some UK companies are demonstrating leadership in tackling climate change, not enough is being done to reduce carbon emissions.

EcoAct found 81% of FTSE 100 companies had an emissions reduction target, but 85% of those do not currently have a sufficient strategy in place to limit global warming to safe levels. Only 8% had attained carbon neutrality and just 10% committed to doing so. 

Companies are failing to act on cutting carbon emissions despite the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warning there is a less than 12-year window to limit global warming to 1.5C.

Stuart Lemmon, managing director, EcoAct, said: “What has become crystal clear over the last year is that the climate emergency is no longer a distant concept.

“In our ninth year of examining climate performance of the UK’s largest companies, while we have seen progress, change is simply not happening fast enough. It is now imperative that companies urgently step up to their responsibilities to drastically reduce carbon output.”

In a ranking of FTSE 100 companies, Unilever came top for the first time for its sustainability reporting practices and its plans to tackle climate-related sustainability issues. Marks & Spencer came second and BT Group third. 

Companies were scored against criteria in four key areas: measurement and reporting, strategy and governance, engagement and innovation, and best practice. Scoring was based on environmental issues such as carbon emissions, deforestation and engagement with the UN's Sustainable Development Goals. 

According to EcoAct, Unilever provided evidence that it is “collaborating with suppliers to reduce emissions and have demonstrated quantified supplier emissions reductions, proving that this partnership is working”, as well making commitments to become carbon positive by 2030.

Marks & Spencer's was commended for its action against plastic waste and emissions. The retailer is carbon-neutral across its global operations. 

BT has set goals to reduce its own emissions to limit global warming, but it has also developed products to allow customers to reduce emissions. 

However, an open letter from NGOs has accused hundreds of companies within the Consumer Goods Forum – including Unilever – of “greenwashing” for failing to take action on “no deforestation” pledges made in 2009. 

A Unilever spokesperson told SM: “We’re committed to reaching 100% zero net deforestation and have been leading on this issue for two decades. We’ve made significant moves to improve transparency – something we believe to be vital to transformation.

“But deforestation is a huge challenge and it is something we can only end if we get everyone together, including farmers, businesses and governments.”

A separate report commissioned by the UK government found the country would need to spend as much as £20bn per year to meet 2050 climate targets.

Vivid Economics, which conducted the report, said 130m tonnes of carbon dioxide needs to be removed from the air each year to make up for industries such as agriculture and aviation.

Analysts told the government it must invest in greenhouse gas removal, such as carbon capture technology and storage. It also suggested that the government should force wholesale suppliers of fossil fuels and agriculture products to offset a percentage of their carbon emissions.

A spokesman for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: “We recognise the importance and urgency of taking action right across the economy to deliver on our world-leading net-zero target, including by developing our approach to greenhouse gas removal technology.

“This report presents a variety of different options for consideration, and we will look closely at its findings.”

Separately, Virgin One Hyperloop claimed it will be the most energy-efficient mode of mass transportation.

The Hyperloop is expected to be able to transport people and goods at nearly 700 mph in depressurised environments via a process called magnetic levitation. The firm said the system will be up to 10 times more energy efficient than an airplane and four times more efficient than Amtrak. 

It added that solar panels could be integrated into its outdoor tube systems, which could generate two-thirds of a route’s projected energy needs.

Jay Walder, CEO of Virgin Hyperloop One, said: “As the world’s population grows, especially our urban populations, global demands for rapid, seamless travel, and more efficient deliveries will continue to rise. We must meet demand in a way that is efficient, clean, and protects the future of our planet.”

Meanwhile, US retailer Walmart said it had met its target to ensure its own-brand coffee is sustainably sourced one year early. 

Walmart announced in 2017 that it would be looking to ensure all of its coffee was certified sustainable by third party groups Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance Certified or UTZ by 2020.

It said it will continue efforts to boost transparency and is working with coffee supplier Westrock Coffee to offer customers visibility into its supply chain, all the way back to the coffee farmers at origin.

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