CO2 Emissions at the World

Ever since the 2008 financial crisis and subsequent economic malaise, corporate sustainability has lost a bit of its luster as companies strayed away from “green” messaging and more toward job creation and technological innovation.

Even GE’s Jeff Immelt, at one time the leader of corporate green converts, said in 2011 he regretted the company’s green messaging: “If I had one thing to do over again, I would not have talked so much about green. […] I’m a businessman. That’s all I care about, is jobs,” he said.

Behind the scenes, however, some of the biggest companies in the world — including GE — are still chipping away at their energy consumption by making their operations more efficient, procuring more clean energy, or finding less wasteful ways of producing goods.

But are these efforts really making an impact?

A new report examining carbon emissions from the world’s largest 500 companies bluntly concludes that the answer is no.

Well, at least not cumulatively.

Every year, the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) surveys leading companies about their CO2 output on behalf of major investors worth $87 trillion. This year, 81 percent of the companies in the Global 500 list participated. And although 84 percent of big firms surveyed have emissions reductions targets, the top 50 companies on the list are together increasing their emissions, not dropping them.

The news comes as the world surpasses 400 ppm concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere and scientists at the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change prepare a report concluding with 95 percent certainty that humans are warming the planet.

“With the initial IPCC report only weeks away, corporate emissions are still rising. Either business action increases, or the risk is regulation overtakes them,” said