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Social Footprint Pilot at Ben & Jerry's Completed

Submitted by: Center for Sustainable Organizations

Categories: Research, Reports & Publications

Posted: Jan 08, 2008 – 10:59 PM EST

 

Jan. 08 /CSRwire/ - THETFORD CENTER, VT - January 8, 2008 – The Center for Sustainable Innovation (CSI) announced today the successful completion of an initial pilot of its Social Footprint Method at Ben & Jerry's, the well-known ice cream maker headquartered in South Burlington, Vermont. Results of the pilot are included in the company’s online 2006 Social and Environmental Assessment Report, in a special section entitled Global Warming Social Footprint.

The Social Footprint Method (SFM) is an advanced corporate sustainability measurement and reporting tool, which unlike the Global Reporting Initiative, measures social sustainability performance against standards of performance. Thus, a company’s use of the SFM entails true triple bottom line measurement and reporting, not just top line reporting.

The scope of Ben & Jerry's initial pilot focused on the company's contributions towards reversing climate change. In effect, the question being asked was, To what extent is Ben & Jerry's contributing its proportionate share towards returning greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere to safe levels? Like all SFM studies, and unlike Ecological Footprints, the standard of performance in this case, was a social one, not an ecological one. To reverse climate change, an effective mix of human, social, and constructed (or built) capital is required so as to make related solutions (i.e., collective action) possible. A proportionate share of what it will take to create such capitals can then be allocated to any company as its own standard of performance.

The specific standard used at Ben & Jerry's was based on the so-called WRE350 scenario, a climate model that specifies a normative pattern of emissions required to stabilize CO2 concentrations to safe levels by 2150. The safe level specified in the WRE350 plan is 350 parts per million (ppm), as compared to present levels of approximately 385 ppm, and pre-industrial levels of 280 ppm. WRE350 was developed by Tom M. L. Wigley, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, CO (www.ucar.edu/org), Richard Richels, Director of Global Climate Change Research at the Electric Power Research Institute in Palo Alto, California (www.epri.com), and James A. Edmonds, a Senior Staff Scientist and Technical Leader of Economic Programs at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory's (PNNL) Joint Global Change Research Institute (www.globalchange.umd.edu). Wigley, Richels, and Edmonds are the "WRE" namesakes of the WRE350 scenario.

CSI's Executive Director, Mark W. McElroy, had this to say about today's announcement: "The Global Warming Footprint, an implementation of the SFM, is the only greenhouse gas measurement and reporting tool that actually compares an organization's impacts on climate change with norms for what such impacts ought to be in order to reverse climate change. Thus, in a world where most, if not all, emissions are arguably unsustainable in purely ecological terms, our approach makes it possible to separately assess the social sustainability of related mitigation efforts. Here, we are quite literally operationalizing the social side of triple bottom line reporting."

Rob Michalak, Ben & Jerry's Director of Social Mission, had this to say about his company’s initial experience with the SFM: "Our work with the Social Footprint Method provided Ben & Jerry’s with a credible evaluation system that helped us to determine how we are doing and what more we need to do to mitigate our impact on the earth's climate. The Global Warming Footprint gave us a substantive way to measure our efforts, and produced a relevant benchmark to help us develop a continuing climate change plan. It is our belief that if every business calculated a Global Warming Footprint and developed plans to meet its annual emissions targets, our planet would have a chance to achieve safe and stable levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide by 2150. It's a lofty notion, but in light of what we now know about climate change, we need to set ambitious goals and get started on achieving them right away."

CSI's Global Warming Footprint has been used to measure and report the emissions performance of several other multi-national corporations using publicly available data, including Shell, BT, BP, GM, Ford, DuPont and several others. More information about the Global Warming Footprint and other applications of the SFM can be found online at CSI's website.

About the Center for Sustainable Innovation

The Center for Sustainable Innovation is a Vermont non-profit corporation located in Thetford Center, VT. It was founded in 2004 with a vision of working for sustainability, both within and by means of innovation. Most of CSI's current efforts are being applied to development of the Social Footprint Method, a joint project between CSI and the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. CSI's founder and Executive Director, Mark W. McElroy, can be reached at mmcelroy@vermontel.net. More information about CSI, including its Social Footprint Masterclass, can be found on its website.

About Ben & Jerry's Homemade, Inc.

Ben & Jerry's, a Vermont corporation and wholly-owned subsidiary of Unilever, operates its business on a three-part mission statement emphasizing product quality, economic reward, and a commitment to the community. Ben & Jerry's contributes a minimum of $1.1 million annually through corporate philanthropy that is primarily employee led. Contributions made via the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation in 2007 totaled about $1.7 million. Additionally, the company makes significant product donations to community groups and nonprofits both in Vermont, across the nation and internationally. The purpose of Ben & Jerry's philanthropy is to support the founding values of the company: economic and social justice, environmental restoration and peace through understanding, and to support our Vermont communities. For the full scoop on all Ben & Jerry's fabulous flavors, visit the company's website.

For more information, please contact:

Mark W. McElroy Center for Sustainable Innovation

For more from this organization:

Center for Sustainable Organizations

 

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