By Vinnee Tong
The Associated Press
NEW YORK — The world’s biggest companies are making climate change a higher priority, in part through more widespread disclosure of carbon emissions, according to an annual report released Monday by a nonprofit group.
The report from Carbon Disclosure Project tracked how companies plan to deal with the risks and opportunities associated with greenhouse gas emissions and energy use.
“The big thing this year is the huge increase in the level of seriousness with which climate change is being incorporated into the corporate strategy of companies,” said Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) Chief Executive Paul Dickinson.
Wal-Mart announced Monday that the company would begin measuring energy use for seven product categories in a partnership with the CDP.
A typical Wal-Mart Supercenter, which combines a full grocery section with general merchandise, carries about 200,000 items in thousands of categories.
For the time being, the world’s biggest retailer would not yet use the data to choose its suppliers of DVDs, toothpaste, soap, milk, beer, vacuum cleaners and soda.
“This is an important first step toward reaching our goal of removing nonrenewable energy from the products Wal-Mart sells,” its chief merchandising officer, John Fleming, said in a statement.
British supermarket chain Tesco, a Wal-Mart rival, announced plans in January to label 70,000 food items to show consumers the amount of carbon emitted during the production, transport and consumption of each one. Tesco is the market leader in Britain ahead of Wal-Mart subsidiary Asda and plans to enter the U.S. market starting this year.
Former President Clinton, who appeared with the nonprofit group to release the report, said Monday that the U.S. has missed out on the biggest job-creation engine in years by ignoring the need to combat climate change through reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.
Clinton said the U.S. had ignored the climate-change problem, and in doing so, passed up the chance to create jobs the way Britain has by deciding to exceed the carbon-reduction goals set in the Kyoto Protocol, which the U.S. has not signed.
“We walked away from the only low-hanging fruit,” Clinton said.
Among the 500 companies ranked by the Financial Times newspaper as the world’s largest by market capitalization, 75 percent responded to this year’s survey, up from 47 percent when the survey started four years ago.
The response rate by companies in North America rose in all industry sectors, and nine of 10 sectors had a response rate of more than 50 percent. The increased willingness by companies to disclose their carbon emissions and find ways to reduce them reflects the changing political and regulatory landscape over energy efficiency.
Of the companies that responded, 76 percent implemented programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, compared with 48 percent last year.
On Monday, the Carbon Disclosure Project also was launching the Climate Disclosure Leadership Index, a smaller group of 68 companies including Citigroup, Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola, Hewlett-Packard and General Motors.
Associated Press reporter Marcus Kabel contributed to this report.