We spend a lot of effort understanding and trying to reduce our carbon footprint. That’s great. But it’s also important to understand and optimize our carbon handprint, sometimes defined as the impact (positive or negative) we have on other’s carbon footprints.
Even if you reduced your company’s carbon footprint to zero, climate change would remain a key challenge. System-level change is necessary, and that means changing the structure and rules of our economic system to make it less dependent on the fossil fuels mostly responsible for human-caused greenhouse gas emissions.
Some recent work by InfluenceMap frames “influence on climate and energy policy” as a key part of a company’s carbon handprint:
New research from UK think tank InfluenceMap identifies the 50 companies most influential in shaping climate and energy policy around the world. Some of these (like ExxonMobil) are in opposition while others (like Apple and Unilever) are championing ambitious national-level policy to support their decarbonization plans. All, as major corporations, play a major role in policy-making globally both directly and through their trade associations, the research finds.
InfluenceMap provides a great graphic to summarize their work:
The horizontal axis measures how aligned a company is with policies that support the Paris Climate Agreement. The vertical axis measures how intensely the company engages in climate policy-making via lobbying, consultations, and other fora.
This work shows that a company’s climate policy engagement can have a positive or negative impact on their carbon handprint. Companies can significantly amplify their climate impacts (positive or negative) by how they engage in the climate policy-making process.
The final section of their report gives individual scores for the 50 most influential companies, with links to explain their detailed scoring. Big Oil and Big Materials do not do well. There are some familiar companies listed, including:
- ExxonMobil (score = -52 on a scale of -100 to +100); detailed ExxonMobil scoring here
- BASF (score = -43); detailed BASF scoring here
- Rio Tinto (score = -35); detailed Rio Tinto scoring here
- Unilever (score = +52); detailed Unilever scoring here
- Apple (score = +53); detailed Apple scoring here
What can a company do with this information? Here are some suggested next steps:
- Score yourself using this approach
- Identify what it would take to improve your score and carbon handprint
- Use these results to engage with internal and external stakeholders, asking questions such as:
- How material is this to our business?
- Where we are at today?
- Where do we want to be?
- How can we align our actions with our values?
- Improve your carbon handprint by strongly supporting climate policies consistent with the Paris goal of “well under” 2°C
Feel free to contact me to discuss further.