Top of the climate change chart

December 16, 2011
| By Pete Daly |
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Two of West Michigan’s largest office furniture companies — Herman Miller and Steelcase, in that order — received very high scores on the Climate Counts 2011-2012 Scorecard Report, placing them at the top of U.S. home and office furniture companies trying to reduce manufacturing emissions believed to cause climate change.

Herman Miller has a score of 63, as does Masco Corp., a Taylor-based company. Although it is also listed in the home and office furniture sector, Masco is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of brand-name products for home improvement and new home construction.

Steelcase, in third place, received a score of 60, while the next highest score among the 14 companies ranked in the home/office furniture sector was La-Z-Boy with 21. The lowest score was 0, racked up by the Kentucky-based mattress company Tempur-Pedic. Serta got an 8, followed by Simmons (6), Spring Air (2) and Furniture Brands International (2).

Privately held Haworth was not listed by Climate Counts.

Climate Counts is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization launched with support from Stonyfield Farm Inc., a New Hampshire organic yogurt company. Climate Counts “is an effort to bring consumers and companies together in the fight against global climate change,” according to the organization’s website.

“We score the world’s largest companies on their climate impact to spur corporate climate responsibility and conscious consumption,” states the Climate Counts website. “Our goal is to motivate deeper awareness among consumers that the issue of climate change demands their attention, and that they have the power to support companies that take climate change seriously and avoid those that don’t. When consumers take action and raise their voices on issues that matter to them, businesses pay attention.”

Climate Counts uses a 0-to-100 point scale and 22 criteria to determine if companies have:

**Measured their climate “footprint”;

**Reduced their impact on global warming;

**Supported “progressive climate legislation” or indicated intent to block it;

**Publicly disclosed their climate actions clearly and comprehensively.

According to an announcement by Herman Miller, the scorecard “measures how well the largest companies across 16 industry sectors are preparing for a low-carbon future.”

Climate Counts apparently receives its information on each company it rates from publicly-available sources, including those firms’ websites and annual reports, and other organizations such as the EPA’s Climate Leaders.

“I have never sent them anything,” said Diane Bunse, a corporate environmental health and safety specialist at Herman Miller in Zeeland, referring to Climate Counts. She believes this is the second or third year Herman Miller has appeared in the Climate Counts ratings.

Herman Miller’s latest score is an increase of nine points over the previous year. The Steelcase score did not change.

David Rinard, director of global environmental performance at Steelcase, said that company had been actively involved with Climate Leaders. Founded by the EPA in 2002, the government officially ended the Climate Leaders program in September but still encourages companies to reduce their greenhouse gases with the information remaining on the Climate Leaders website.

Rinard said when the phase-out of Climate Leaders was announced more than a year ago, Steelcase began submitting its sustainability measurements to Carbon Disclosure Project, a European organization similar to Climate Leaders and Climate Counts.

“It may be that Climate Counts was pulling their data from that,” said Rinard.

He said Climate Counts contacted Steelcase a couple of years ago “and gave us some significant recognition for the work we had done in greenhouse gas reduction, and then I haven’t actually had any contact with them in a while.”

Rinard said he believes Steelcase is, in many ways, “similar (to Herman Miller) in terms of approaches” to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

He said members of BIFMA (the office furniture manufacturers’ association) are using ANSI BIFMA standards to help them reduce their energy consumption and enhance the sustainability of their products.

Julie Smith, a spokesperson for Haworth, said the company had been “approached by Climate Counts in order to participate in their survey. It is something that you pay for to enter. We are considering them as well as other companies like this.”

According to Smith, Haworth had also participated in the EPA’s Climate Leaders program, which she described as a “third-party check of our sustainability efforts.”

Since the EPA began phasing that program out a year ago, “we’ve kind of been in an evaluation process to see what we would go to — and, of course, we’ve got to get it in our budget, too.”

Even though Climate Leaders ended, “we still are as transparent as we can be about our sustainability efforts with our GRI report that we issue every year, but we haven’t made that decision yet” as to what third-party reporting organization to use, said Smith.

GRI, or Global Reporting Initiative, is based in Amsterdam. It is a nonprofit organization that “works towards a sustainable global economy by providing sustainability reporting guidance.” GRI has developed a comprehensive Sustainability Reporting Framework that it says is widely used around the world. The GRI Framework enables all organizations to measure and report their economic, environmental, social and governance performance — the four key areas of sustainability.

“Thousands of organizations, of all sizes and sectors, use GRI’s Framework in order to understand and communicate their sustainability performance,” according to the GRI website.

GRI has regional offices in Australia, Brazil, China, India and the USA. It is involved with the United Nations Environment Program, U.N. Global Compact, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, International Organization for Standardization, and others.

Another West Michigan company with a Climate Counts scorecard is Kellogg, ranked lowest on a list of 13 food products corporations. Kellogg has a score of 54; halfway down the list is Nestle, with a score of 68, and on top is Unilever with a score of 88.

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