Not content to simply rest on his laurels as one of the most environmentally-friendly CEOs out there, Stonyfield Farm's Gary Hirshberg wants to shed more light on his and other companies' environmental practices and has created a new group called Climate Counts that will be scoring prominent companies based on their response to climate change.
"Are companies measuring their impact on climate? Are they reducing, are they disclosing their efforts," said Hirshberg. "And finally, are they supporting or are they blocking progressive legislation to reduce our climate footprint as a country?"
The organization scores companies on a scale of 1 to 100 and has so far focused on popular fast-food chains. The results so far? Lackluster, to say the least: while McDonald's scored highest with a paltry 22, the three other chains that were judged, Burger King, Wendy's and Yum Brands (owner of Pizza Hut and Taco Bell) scored a nice round zero. "None of the other companies in the sector have even taken the first step to measure their climate footprint," said Wood Turner, Climate Counts' project director.McDonald's middling score, which Turner deemed "not good," was the result of the company's attempts at experimenting with biofuels and green building. While a McDonald's spokesperson said the company welcomed the scrutiny, Yum Brands refused to comment and Burger King and Wendy's insisted they were making an effort to take on global warming with energy efficiency measures. Wendy's Denny Lynch noted that, "Early results are showing we're decreasing the amount of usage . . . energy usage by 10 percent."
Despite the negative press this might earn some of the companies, John Owens, an analyst with Morningstar, doubts that fast food's audience - mainly young males - will really care. "By and large I would say that fast-food customers probably aren't as engaged on this issue. And I mean, maybe they're getting more news about what Paris Hilton's doing rather than what's going on with global climate change," he remarked.
Climate Counts is planning on scoring more companies next week, including Apple, Starbucks and Coca-Cola. To those who believe the rating system may be biased in favor of companies like Hirshberg's, take heed: Stonyfield Farm, which will also be rated next week, apparently only ranked "in the upper tier" and received a less than satisfactory score, according to Hirshberg.
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