Short-sighted as it may be, some companies may be undaunted by the fact that more U.S. politicians are taking carbon emissions seriously. After all, there's no significant federal legislation looming that would ding an organization that produces an excessive amount of that infamous substance so often linked with global warming.
But even if Uncle Sam isn't monitoring the size of companies' carbon footprint, another powerful entity is: Wal-Mart. Earlier this week, the retail empire announced that it will team with the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) to start tracking and reducing the energy consumed and carbon emissions produced by its suppliers. The project will begin with seven product categories: DVDs, toothpaste, soap, milk, beer, soda, and vacuum cleaners.
This announcement is a huge one, and it should drive home the fact that it's not just tree-hugger pols and nonprofits that care about energy waste, associated carbon emissions, and other greenhouse gases. When a mainstream global company with the size and influence of Wal-Mart asserts it's keeping a tab on not only its own carbon footprint but those of its suppliers, having a large footprint suddenly has very clear, very real economic ramifications.
Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment -- one of Wal-Mart's suppliers -- has already initiated a supply-chain analysis of the carbon impact of the production, manufacture, and distribution of its DVDs. More than 20 of Fox's key suppliers embraced the study by supplying detailed information on their energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.
Notably, Wal-Mart certainly isn't the only influential corporation out there keeping a tab on the greenness of its supply chain. HP, IBM, Dell, and Xerox, for example, assess their suppliers' environmental responsibility practices and, in some cases, work actively with those companies to help them become more efficient, as well as better environmental stewards.
Moreover, investor groups such as CDP, a coalition of more than 315 investors representing $41 trillion in assets, have been encouraging companies to disclose their carbon footprints for the past five years. This year, 77 percent of the FT500 -- representing 500 companies globally -- responded to CDP's survey. U.S. companies lagged, though, with only 56 percent of the SP500 responding.