Article from Environmental America Blog & Harvard Review
Photo sources: River Jordan for NRDC, pixabay and pixabay.:
Not too long ago, toilet paper took over the news cycle. At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw shocking images (Links to an external site.) of shelves of the bathroom product being emptied by marauding hordes of hoarders. At the time, it was clear that the last thing on anyone’s mind was whether the product they were buying in extreme bulk was sustainable, or even where the fibers that make up toilet paper came from.
Fast forward to 2021 and toilet paper made the news once again, but this time for a very different reason.
At Procter & Gamble’s annual general meeting, the makers of Charmin toilet paper, Bounty paper towels, Puffs facial tissue and a whole host of other consumer goods were put on the hot seat. During the meeting, 67 percent of the giant multinational company’s shareholders bucked (Links to an external site.) the corporation’s board of directors’ recommendation and voted for a shareholder proposal to address P&G’s impacts on forests.
Specifically, the proposal calls for the company (Links to an external site.) to assess and report on how it could “increase the scale, pace and rigor of its efforts to eliminate deforestation and the degradation of intact forests in its supply chains.” The resolution is non-binding, so the company will ultimately decide how it wants to address its investors, but the vote strongly demonstrates the will of shareholders: Protecting forests is something they expect the company to take very seriously.
The vote’s result proves that a large amount of people do in fact care about what goes into toilet paper, especially if it’s being sourced from incredibly important forests. One of the core issues that the proposal seeks to address is that Procter & Gamble’s tissue products are putting immense pressure (Links to an external site.) on the Canadian boreal forest.
The boreal forest is the largest intact forest ecosystem in the world; it’s the permanent home to caribou, lynx, wood bison, moose and wolves, and it’s the summer nesting grounds for billions of migratory birds. All told, the boreal covers 1.2 billion acres of woodland (Links to an external site.) stretching across most of Canada and covering roughly half of the country’s total land area.
Each year, 1 million acres (Links to an external site.) of boreal forest is cut in Canada, partly driven by sourcing for tissue products made out of virgin forest fiber. This unnecessary action — see alternatives below — not only threatens the wildlife that call the forest home, but it also puts incredible pressure on our changing climate. Logging in the Canadian boreal takes long-stored carbon from soil, roots, trunks and branches and releases it into the atmosphere. It also eliminates the carbon capturing potential of felled trees and erodes the carbon intake capabilities (Links to an external site.) of the fractured forest around it.
The climate implications of logging in the boreal forest are likely a large factor in what drove larger institutional investors, such as BlackRock, to vote for the shareholder proposal. BlackRock, the largest asset manager in the world, and the second-largest holder of P&G stock, has recently made efforts to support climate friendly shareholder proposals (Links to an external site.) after receiving well-deserved criticism for its voting record in the past.
Whatever the reason, an incredible amount of investors (Links to an external site.) felt compelled to call on P&G to consider how it can reduce the forest impacts of their supply chain seriously.
This shouldn’t be too difficult for P&G, because thankfully, there is a relatively easy way for it to reduce the impacts that its tissue products have on the boreal forest. The company simply needs to do what many of its competitors (Links to an external site.) are already doing, which is to incorporate recycled or alternative forest-free fibers into its products and thus reduce the logging done in the boreal and elsewhere for toilet paper.
For instance, using bamboo, recycled office paper or even wheat straw to create a product with less impact on intact forests will make a difference. Procter & Gamble has indicated (Links to an external site.) that they are “committed to reducing demand on the world’s forests”.
Shareholders are becoming more vocal in demanding companies disclose the risks of climate change. In May 2019, the shareholders of BP (Links to an external site.) voted overwhelmingly in favor of disclosure, and similar proposals have been accepted by the shareholders of Exxon Mobil (Links to an external site.), Occidental Petroleum (Links to an external site.), and PPL Corporation (Links to an external site.). This year, the proxy advisory firm ISS (Links to an external site.) (Institutional Shareholder Services) expects a record-high number of these proposals.
Demands for climate disclosure are becoming increasingly sophisticated. The Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD (Links to an external site.)) has developed recommendations (around four areas: governance, strategy, risk management, and metrics and targets) for helping businesses disclose climate-related financial information. And the SEC recently launched a review (Links to an external site.) to assess whether regulations might be needed to provide investors with “more consistent, comparable, and reliable information” about climate change risks. Such mandatory disclosure would likely help improve the quantity and quality of disclosure, standardize it, and enable greater progress in the fight against climate change.
1. Please discuss the ethical duties, if any, of a business to disclose their climate risk exposure of their portfolio? 25%
2. Can these disclosures be good for the businesses? 25%
3. What examples can you find of any businesses that are addressing these issues and the effect it has on their businesses? 25%
4. Give examples of businesses that have gotten into legal and criminal issues for failure to comply with laws governing the environment? 25%
Remember to use cites and 400 words and post to another student.
Include the number of words of your post at the end of the post. Do not include your cites or post to the other students when calculating your word number.
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