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Climate counts in consumer choices

Climate counts in consumer choices
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First Published: Mon, Jun 25 2007. 12 14 AM IST
Updated: Mon, Jun 25 2007. 12 14 AM IST
Coke or Pepsi? McDonald’s or Burger King? Amazon or Yahoo? Climate Counts, a new non-profit group, wants consumers to think about more than taste or service when they make those decisions. It wants them to consider the companies’ records in curbing climate change.
The group has ranked a number of consumer companies on how they measure greenhouse gas emissions, their plans to reduce them, their support or opposition to regulation and—most important, says Wood Turner, the group’s executive director—how fully they disclose those activities. “If the information is not in the consumers’ hands, they can’t make informed choices,” Turner said.
The Carbon Disclosure Project has ranked firms on their environmental track records for several years. But its goals are to help investors choose stocks and to prod recalcitrant managers. Climate Counts is aiming at consumers.
No company achieved a perfect 100. Six companies scored zero, and only four—Canon, Nike, Unilever and IBM—scored 70 or better. Even yogurt maker Stonyfield Farm, which provided $500,000 (about Rs2 crore) in seed money for Climate Counts, managed only a 63, and its parent company, Groupe Danone, scored 50. “We got low points on disclosure, and we haven’t done enough with renewables,” Gary Hirshberg, chief executive, Stonyfield Farm, and the chairman of Climate Counts, said with an embarrassed laugh.
Not surprisingly, companies that outranked their competitors say they welcome the scrutiny. Coca-Cola, which scored 57 to PepsiCo’s 26, has been tracking, disclosing, and curbing emissions for several years, said Jeff Seabright, Coca-Cola’s vice-president for environment and water resources. McDonald’s, whose 22 was second only to the 46 scored by Starbucks in the food services category, is similarly pleased.
Companies with low relative scores are not nearly as positive about the review. Amazon.com scored zero because the Climate Counts researchers could not find relevant data about its role in climate change. Craig Berman, an Amazon.com spokesman, says they did not look very hard. Their website includes data about its recycling programmes and the green products it sells, he pointed out.
Avon has been “quietly doing the right thing vis-a-vis the environment,” she said.
The Climate Counts people say they will happily update the scoreboard. “This scorecard serves as carrot and stick, rewarding some companies and prodding others,” Hirshberg said. “We’re not telling consumers who to buy from. We’re just telling them to pay attention.”
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First Published: Mon, Jun 25 2007. 12 14 AM IST
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