These days, world leaders debate in Glasgow (United Kingdom) about the future of the planet, in the framework of COP26, but when the curtain falls next Friday, it will be time to look at companies. Especially when, according to the report After COP 26, is the burden shifted to companies?, produced by Deutsche Bank, only 40 US companies emitted around 1.5 billion tons of carbon in 2019 (4% of total emissions), in line with the 40 most polluting in Europe and practically the same as all countries of Africa together.
Addressing the environmental impact of your activity represents a significant economic cost for companies, but it also pays off. Sustainability is a double-edged sword because, on the one hand, consumers are opting for brands that position themselves as more responsible and, on the other, they punish those who ignore their demands. More than 30% of Spaniards buy more from companies that care about the environment now than a year ago, according to the aforementioned Deutsche Bank report. A percentage that reaches half the population in the case of Italy, which shows a greater transformation compared to the rest of the countries analyzed.
The rulers have promised a tightening of sanctions for companies that contribute to deforestation, but one of the greatest incentives to carry out more sustainable practices is part of consumers. 44% of Americans claim to have boycotted a product for environmental reasons in 2021, eight percentage points more than in 2019. This punishment is not limited to specific products, but extrapolates to the rest of the brand. 43% of consumers declare that they have not bought more articles from a certain firm after having read information that compromised them from an environmental point of view.
In this line, around 35% of Spaniards are willing to stop buying food that has been transported from another country in the next year, according to the aforementioned document. Almost half of consumers consider that they are doing enough on a personal level to alleviate the effects of climate change, led by the youngest, so they believe that it is time to pass the baton to companies, as they argue that they can do more of what they are doing so far.
The data backs them up. This is shown by the Deutsche Bank study, which recalls that large corporations have been rescued by governments, that is, taxpayers, up to two times in the last 13 years. Despite the ravages of the pandemic, in general terms, the cash available in corporations soared 50% and 35% in the US and Europe, respectively at the end of 2020. It is true that the profitability of companies has dropped due to Covid-19, but it is still very high since it registered all-time highs in previous years. All this provides them with a sufficient cushion to cushion the costs derived from a transition to more efficient models, the report says.
Due to increased pressure from consumers and government sanctions, progress has been made. European companies reduced their emissions by 14% on average in the last decade (until 2019). But the best way to judge how they approach their emissions is to compare them to sales. From the financial crisis to 2019, companies have decarbonized their operations by 23%. This progress, however, has not been made uniformly in all sectors: while, in Europe, real estate and consumer goods have achieved reductions of more than 50%, telecommunications and energy have shot their emissions above 20%.
Nor should we lose sight of the fact that, in a globalized world, traditional metrics mask the true extent of the pollution produced by developed countries. In the last 40 years, production has shifted to emerging markets, although the finished products are subsequently imported. Thus, while China is an exporter of net emissions, the United States has a net carbon import equivalent to 7.7% of its national emissions.