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World’s Largest Companies Decoupling Emissions, Business Growth

Greenhouse gas emissions data from the world’s 500 largest companies shows that for the first time, the Global 500 are beginning to grow their businesses and manage their emissions at a rate that follows the global scientific consensus on the risks of climate change, according to a Thomson Reuters report.

These businesses currently represent about 28 percent of the world’s GDP and collectively emitted 10 percent of global GHG emissions over the last five years.

Global 500 Greenhouse Gas Performance 2010-2015: 2016 Report on Trends was written in collaboration with BSD Consulting, a global sustainability consultancy. It looked at self-reported GHG emissions data from businesses as well as estimates pulled from Thomson Reuters ESG research data.

Key findings indicate a decoupling between economic performance and emissions output. Revenues for the Global 500 grew about 5 percent over a four-year period, while emissions only increased by 1 percent.

“Following COP21 last year, sustainable business growth has become a top priority and focal point for many organizations,” said Tim Nixon, managing editor of sustainability at Thomson Reuters and co-author for the report. “Limiting environmental impact is no longer just about doing the ‘right’ thing. Organizations recognize sustainable business growth is central to mitigating risk and driving top and bottom line performance.”

The report found 26 businesses with a GHG footprint of more than 10 million tons decreased their emissions by more than 8 percent between 2010 and 2015. These companies include Valero Energy Corp., Dominion Resources, NextEra Energy, ExxonMobil, Chevron, Southern Company, Duke Energy, American Electric Power and Dow Chemical.

However, the report also found that 29 of the Global 500 businesses with an annual GHG footprint of more than 10 million tons increased emissions by more than 8 percent. These include Devon Energy, Exelon, Praxair and Union Pacific.

“We did find promising the trend on lower emissions growth versus revenue growth for the Global 500 as a whole, however many of the largest emitters have yet to show this kind of decoupling,” said John Moorhead, head of the climate change practice at BSD. “Although the gap with a 2 degree pathway for the Global 500 has decreased to 6.6 percent of total emissions, the gap still remains significant. Carbon pricing, innovation in technology and business models and responsible investment are the keys to closing this gap.”

The Thomson Reuters report follows a report by the US Energy Information Administration that found US energy-related carbon emissions dropped 12 percent last year, compared with 2005 levels, after increasing in 2013 and 2014.

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