In sports, what keeps us interested and glued to our TVs is the score. Who’s winning, who’s losing. As former Jets coach Herm Edwards famously said–and you HAVE TO WATCH THIS–“You play to win the GAME! Hello!?!”
The use of numbers goes far beyond just who won and lost, of course. Sports and statistics go together like Minneapolis and St. Paul–they are the lifeblood of scouts and General Managers who try to discern from measurements of past performance how players and teams will fare in the future. “Moneyball”, the Oscar nominated film based on the book by Michael Lewis, examined how advanced statistics and computing power changed the way baseball players were valued. New-fangled stats like OPS, WHIP and VORP (don’t ask!) allow for a more detailed, more nuanced measure of baseball players. Fans have gotten into the act by playing GM in all manner of statistics-based Fantasy Sports leagues, creating their own “teams” by drafting real-life players and then, using statistics to determine who wins.
Keeping score and statistics are every bit as integral to the world of sustainability as they are to sports.
One number that shows humanity is NOT “playing to win the game” is 400. That represents the number of parts per million of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the Earth’s atmosphere as of a couple weeks ago. 350 is the number that leading climate scientists say is the safe upper limit for CO2. Batting .400 in baseball, an incredibly positive and rare achievement, is something that hasn’t been done since 1941 (Ted Williams, .406). Passing the 400 PPM of CO2 in the atmosphere mark is something that’s never been seen in recorded history, going back 800,000 years. There are estimates that this level may have existed over 3 million years ago, but that was before humans existed. And, the bigger problem is, we’re moving towards 450-500, not back to 350.
If we’re going to move in the right direction, numbers will play an integral role.
There is a fast-growing movement towards measuring corporate emissions of greenhouse gases/carbon footprint, along with other environmental indicators. Organizations like the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) and (my client) the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) are all developing metrics that will allow investors to be able to compare corporations’ environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance or lack thereof on an apples-to-apples basis.
The grand slam (2 posts, 2 sports analogies, not bad) will be hit if/when a company’s ESG (i.e. non financial) performance can be linked to its financial performance. There already is some research showing this connection; more is being done. Once this link is conclusively proven, it’s not a stretch to see that investors will favor the companies with the strong ESG performance because they expect greater financial returns. The laggards will have to raise their ESG batting averages (sorry, I can’t help myself) and a race to the sustainable business top will ensue. And, since industry is such a huge contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions, it may well be that measurement of ESG performance will play a key role in moving that PPM number in the right direction. We need these kinds of measurements to play to win the sustainability game! Hello?!?
- One of the largest sports advertisers, InBev Anheuser-Busch, has thrown its weight behind an anti-fracking push in Germany. Concern about water quality for its beers brewed there led to this move. Does anyone think they’ll get behind anti-fracking movements in the US? Will be interesting to see.
- More than 60% running shoes’ Carbon Footprint comes from manufacturing. I imagined that transportation would represent a much greater percentage. Good news is lots is being done to lower the manufacturing portion of that carbon footprint.
- Finally, yesterday I attended the monthly New York Association of Energy Economics luncheon. The speaker, John Licata, Chief Energy Strategist at research consultancy BluePhoenix spoke about Economic Energy Disruption–the idea that Climate Change/Extreme Weather can have severe effects on energy security and other issues. In trying to predict which energy sources will win going forward and which will fall by the wayside. To illustrate this, John used the metaphor of BRACKETOLOGY from March Madness. He has CoGeneration winning over Offshore Wind but I think he’s undervaluing solar!!! I bet Mike Francesa of WFAN would not get into this debate.