Berlin: Companies behind some of the best-known consumer products — from soaps to sodas — are beginning to factor climate change into their business equation, according to a report published early this week.
The survey of 16 major corporations by non-profit group CDP found that many are working to lower their carbon emissions, prepare for the effects of global warming on their supply chain and respond to growing environmental consciousness among customers.
Examples include brewer AB InBev’s efforts to develop a variety of barley that needs less water and Unilever adjusting its detergent formulas so they work at the lower “eco” temperature settings on modern washing machines, the London-based group said.
“We were surprised how much these companies were aligning themselves with changes in consumer preferences,” said Carole Ferguson, the report’s lead author. This includes chasing trends such as veganism, a small but growing factor in the market that’s driven by people who shun animal products for ethical or health reasons, but also because meat and dairy have a large carbon footprint.
PepsiCo’s recent acquisition of Health Warrior, a maker of plant-based nutrition bars, is a typical example where a large company has snapped up a small brand to fill a niche it didn’t yet cover. Such purchases help companies bolster their green credentials at a time when they’re beginning to feel the heat of climate activism.
Consumer goods account for about a third of greenhouse gas emissions, meaning companies that make them play a key role in efforts to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) by the end of the century.
But manufacturers like Nestle, Coca-Cola and Procter & Gamble also face growing scrutiny from investors who want to know what business risks they face from climate change before deciding whether to buy their stock, Ferguson said.
CDP ranked the companies surveyed according to how strongly their business is threatened by climate change, what they are doing to prepare for it and how much information they disclose to the market.
In general, CDP found that European makers of fast-moving consumer goods are ahead of U.S. rivals in preparing for climate change — a disparity also seen in other sectors, such as automotive or oil and gas. France’s Danone came first in the food and drinks sector, while Kraft Heinz came last out of nine; similarly Paris-based cosmetics company L’Oreal ranked second in the household and personal care sector, against New York-based rival Estee Lauder, which came last out of seven.