Dienstag, 15. Januar 2013

Only a few companies are on their way towards economic sustainability

Most sectors are not advancing fast enough on their way towards sustainability. The Munich rating agency oekom research evaluated the sustainability performance of 3100 companies from 50 countries. Only every sixth company operates sustainably and, especially in the most relevant sectors, there have been no changes.

The RIO+20 summit this summer is an opportunity to take stock: How sustainable is the economy? However, 20 years after the decisive commitment to a sustainable economy, only a small number of companies are sufficiently involved in this cause. This is what resulted from the oekom Corporate Responsibility Review 2012, published in mid-March.A total of 543 companies and thus 17.1 percent of the 3100 companies evaluated by oekom research received the oekom Prime Status as of 31 December 2011. Among them are approximately 300 conventional large businesses from all sectors and about 180 small and medium-sized businesses from sectors that, for example in the fields of renewable energies and recycling, contribute substantially to sustainable development.    “Another quarter of the companies has a good initial approach to sustainability management but lack a systematic and comprehensive anchorage of the respective aspects of management.” This is how Matthias Bönning, COO and Head of Research at oekom research, explains the results of the ratings. “However, over 57 percent of the companies we evaluated show low activity or no activity at all.”In many sectors that play a key role in sustainable development, the activity of companies is far away from what is necessary from the point of view of sustainability. For instance, only 23 (7.8 percent) of the 294 banks that have been evaluated by oekom research are sufficiently committed to reach the oekom Prime Status. It is them that have the possibility to set the course for a Green Economy, e.g. by taking into account environmental criteria when lending credit and investing capital.The energy and water supply are also of vital importance for sustainable development. Although a large number of the 154 energy suppliers that have been evaluated by oekom research invest in renewable energies, coal, oil, and in some countries,  nuclear energy, still represent  the backbone of the energy supply. Only 13 percent of the companies currently reach oekom’s Prime Status in this sector. From an environmental perspective, it is problematic that oil extraction is increasingly becoming more complex and is being undertaken  in protected nature areas such as Alaska and Florida, thus leading to an increase in the intensity of energy and  greenhouse gas for the development of resources and in the risk of damaging the environment. In 2011, a number of accidents occurred that resulted in oil contamination of the environment, e.g. at the Trans Alaska Pipeline. Every third company that has been evaluated by oekom research currently violates environmental standards.There are clear deficits when it comes to employment law in the IT-sector, which,, in recent years, has outsourced production on a large scale to newly industrializing Asian countries. Employees in these countries face discrimination, inadequate health and work-safety standards, forced overtime work and payment below the minimum wage. Only 33 of a total of 205 IT-companies that currently have been evaluated meet the minimum requirements of sustainability management.According to estimates of the United Nations, about 20,000 so-called “Emerging Markets Multinationals” appeared in emerging and developing countries in the course of the globalization process and not only in the IT-sector. The Taiwanese company Foxconn, a supplier of many American and European mobile phone and computer manufacturers, has about one million employees. The goal of a green economy will only be reached if these companies also contribute. “Brasil, India and other developing countries produced the first sustainability pioneers”, Matthias Bönning notices. “However, only individual  companies in these countries meet the requirements of the Oekom Prime status.”In the cross-sectoral comparison, the producers of household products reach the highest rating, with 46.5 out of 100 points, the winner here being the German laundry detergent and household cleanser manufacturer Henkel. These are followed by computer manufacturers (42.0) with Ricoh (JP) in the lead and the automotive industry (40.9) with Renault (FR) currently showing the highest sustainability performance. The low number of points, even in the best sectors, reveals how high the need for improvement still is. On an international level, European companies are one step ahead. According to the companies listed on the MSCI World Index, over 40 percent of the Danish, German, and British companies achieve the Oekom Prime Status. Almost every third French company and nearly every fourth Swiss and Austrian company can be added to this group. In the most important industrialized nations, US and Japan, not even every tenth company shows sufficient commitment to sustainable development.“The ambition of the sustainability management varies strongly between companies, sectors and countries,” concludes Matthias Bönning. “In order to reach the aim of a green economy, the efforts need to be intensified considerably.” Important strategic groundwork for this can be laid in Rio by the heads of governments.”

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