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What is the Tracking Progress Update?
The Climate Collaborative’s (CC) Tracking Progress Update highlights progress that committed companies are making around their climate action commitments. We ask these questions via a short annual survey. Questions cover where in the implementation process companies are, whether they are quantifying emissions reductions, and details on their progress; this year, we also asked about the impacts of COVID-19 on climate planning. Companies are expected to provide information for each commitment they have made, and quantitative data is welcome but not required.
This update is the primary way we assess progress in the industry on an annual basis. In our third tracking progress cycle (2020), we asked all companies that made commitments before December 31, 2019, to respond, a total of 463 companies (this was a large increase from the previous year’s sample of 177 companies). Additionally, we expect but do not receive a 100% response rate, so this analysis is not exhaustive of all company commitments.
In 2020, we received 206 responses covering a total of 585 climate action commitments (representing 44% of the number of companies requested to respond). This is a decrease from 235 responses in 2019, attributable largely to the COVID-19 crisis and ensuing disruption on business planning and reporting. We do assess some general trends across the commitments for the three-year period, though we want to highlight there is variance in who responded year over year.
We are recognizing companies that responded on our Take Action page, in bold. The remainder of companies listed are nonresponding companies, and companies that made commitments after December 31st, 2019.
Commitment Response for 2020
Given the unusual circumstances of this year and added stress that COVID-19 has put on small businesses, we asked respondents to share how their companies adapted. Thirty-six percent of companies indicated that COVID-19 has either not at all affected their sustainability programming or has redoubled their efforts. 66% of respondents indicated that COVID-19 had derailed, delayed, or affected the budget of their sustainability activities. Brands and Manufacturers appeared to be the least affected by COVID-19, while Retailers suffered most. In a separate, retailer-specific survey, retailers reported that packaging, consumer engagement, and sourcing practices were their biggest 2020 climate challenges. There was no significant correlation between company size and reported impact.
Member companies shared their experiences adapting to COVID:
While some projects have been delayed due to resource allocation, there are other projects that we have doubled down on. We are proud to be going fully solar powered for our entire manufacturing facility, starting this August.
Food and dietary supplement sales are booming due to renewed focus on health and home cooking. Our grassfed pastured meat and organic produce programs have stayed resilient and shown fast growth as well.
We feel like we are backsliding in the amount of bags and packaging we have to provide customers due to supply chain disruptions and concerns over sanitation.
As a front-line (supermarket) business, it is taking nearly all of our time to stay open, keep our employees and customers safe, and add trainings such as de-escalation and empathy for our team. It’s hard to put energy elsewhere at the moment.
The responses showed that around 70% of companies are already actively implementing their commitments. This number has increased since 2018 (from 66%) and remained steady since last year, underscoring the resiliency and determination of SMEs in the face of a challenging year.
The remaining 30% of companies are either in active planning stages or haven't yet determined how they will implement their commitments.
Renewable Energy and Food Waste are the commitment areas in which responding companies are making the most progress, with 83% and 82%, respectively, of these companies actively implementing (steady since 2019 and up 10 percentage points since 2018). Companies are also making strong progress implementing HFCs, Methane, and Black Carbon commitments, with 76% of responding companies actively implementing the commitment (down from 81% in 2019).
Agriculture is the commitment area in which companies reported making the least progress. For Agriculture, 54% of companies have begun implementing the commitment, and only 27% are quantifying their progress. This represents a significant decrease from the 72% of companies implementing in 2019.
From 2019 to 2020, the percentage change of companies reporting that they are implementing climate action varied greatly across the nine commitment areas. Agriculture; Forests; and HFCs, Methane, and Black Carbon all declined, while Energy Efficiency, Food Waste, Packaging, and Policy remained steady (within 2 percentage points of 2019 findings). Renewable Energy and Transportation increased significantly, with the former increasing from 69% implementing to 83% from 2019 to 2020, and the latter from 65% to 70%.
Quantifying Emissions Reductions
On average, companies report quantifying emissions reductions from their commitments 41% of the time, a slight decrease from 45% in 2019. We expect this may be due to an increase in companies signing on that are in an earlier stage of climate measurement and goal-setting. Progress in quantifying emissions reductions was most advanced around Renewable Energy and Transport, each with 65% of the companies reporting that they were quantifying progress (relatively steady since 2019). This was followed by Food Waste, with 63% of reporting companies quantifying reductions (up from 61% last year), and Energy Efficiency, with 56% reporting companies quantifying reductions (down from 59% last year).
Quantification was least advanced around HFCs, Methane, and Black Carbon, with only 16% of companies reporting that they were quantifying reductions (down from 38% in 2019), followed by Packaging (18%, down from 23% in 2019) and Forests (20%, steady from 2019), and Agriculture (27%, down from 30% in 2019).
Reporting Platforms Used
As part of the survey, we asked companies which external reporting platforms they used. According to survey respondents, B Lab is the top reporting platform among committed companies, with 31% of respondents on this question also reporting to B Lab (steady from 2019), followed by 8% reporting through SFTA (down from 11% in 2019). Just over 46% of companies reported not using a formal reporting platform, a slight increase from 2019. Companies also referenced using 1% for the Planet, Carbon Neutral, NCG Coefficient, CCOF, Climate Registry, Fair for Life, and GRI.
Other Demographic Information
Appendices: Analysis by commitment