Context-Based Sustainability and Corporate CO2 Reduction Targets: Are Companies Moving Fast Enough?

International Review of Accounting, Banking, and Finance, Fall/Winter 2013, Vol. 5 (3/4), 87-104

18 Pages Posted: 18 Apr 2014

See all articles by John W. Byrd

John W. Byrd

University of Colorado at Denver

Ken Bettenhausen

University of Colorado at Denver - Business School

Elizabeth S. Cooperman

University of Colorado Denver

Date Written: April 16, 2014

Abstract

Corporate sustainability activities are often ad hoc; that is, the extent to which a company moves toward being more sustainable is based on organizational feasibility or economic acceptance rather than true sustainability criteria. This paper examines corporate climate and carbon policy through the lens of context-based sustainability (CBS). CBS argues that true sustainable efforts must consider the ecological capacity of the environment and the fair allocation of this capacity. Only by doing so will the result be an outcome of a livable and sustainable world. The paper combines aspects of physical science (atmospheric CO2 carrying capacity) and philosophy (inter-generational equity and resource allocation) with corporate policy. When applied to climate change this implies examining corporate efforts relative to climate stabilization paths and further examining what a fair allocation of future emissions would be. We look at the documented carbon reductions for a sample of large US corporations including EPA Climate Leadership Award Winners in 2012 and a larger sample of companies from the same industries and compare their carbon reductions to several allocations of the global carbon budget required to limit climate change to just 1°C or 2°C. We find that the emissions path of these US corporations only satisfies the most generous, business-as-usual allocation of carbon emissions.

Keywords: Environmental Economics, Corporate Social Responsibility, Sustainability Accounting

JEL Classification: Q50, M14, G30

Suggested Citation

Byrd, John W. and Bettenhausen, Kenneth and Cooperman, Elizabeth S., Context-Based Sustainability and Corporate CO2 Reduction Targets: Are Companies Moving Fast Enough? (April 16, 2014). International Review of Accounting, Banking, and Finance, Fall/Winter 2013, Vol. 5 (3/4), 87-104. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2425854

John W. Byrd (Contact Author)

University of Colorado at Denver ( email )

Department of Finance
Denver, CO
United States
970-247-9182 (Phone)

Kenneth Bettenhausen

University of Colorado at Denver - Business School ( email )

1250 14th St.
Denver, CO 80204
United States

Elizabeth S. Cooperman

University of Colorado Denver ( email )

Campus Box 165, P.O. Box 173364
Denver, CO 80217
United States
303-315-8422 (Phone)
303-315-8084 (Fax)

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