American businesses say they want to go green, but they aren't backing it up with actions. Consider, greenhouse gas emissions continue to grow, recycling electric wastes hasn't increased by much and the number of commuters has declined.
That's the conclusion of the "State of Green Business 2009" report released Monday by Greenbiz.com. The report set out to measure how green are U.S. businesses in 2007 – the most recent data available – using 20 metrics such as carbon emissions, packaging materials, fuel efficiency of the corporate fleet and investments in cleantech.
Lower rainfall led to more infrequent use of hydroelectric power plants and more reliance on coal-fired power plants, said Joel Makower, executive editor of Greenbiz.com and lead author of the report, at a day-long conference in San Francisco Monday. Greenhouse gas emissions grew 1.4 percent in 2007 from 2006. The emissions dropped 0.6 percent per unit of gross d omestic product, the smallest annual decline since 2002, the report said.
"This is an area where we have a lot of work to do," Makower said.
Electronic waste recycling is another area that has shown little improvements, Makower said. Of the 1.3 million tons of electronic wastes created in 2007, only 18 percent of them were salvaged for re-use.
Meanwhile, the amount of chemicals produced has grown. There are more than 85,000 synthetic chemicals used by American businesses, and Greenbiz.com looked at 20 that included pesticides and other highly toxic varieties. In 2006, 21.78 tons were used per billion of dollar of GDP, compared with 22.15 tons in 2007.
The number of employees who drive their cars to work instead of taking public transit didn't drop by much – from 77.8 percent in 2003 to 76.1 percent in 2007.
On the other hand, there are encouraging signs. More efforts are put into using more environmentally friendly materials and conserve energy use in buildings. Plans by automakers and components makers to build hybrid-electric or all-electric cars are another encouraging sign.
The amount of paper used per dollar of GDP declined 27 percent while recycling of papers grew by 27 percent in the past decade. American businesses have released and disposed of 1.77 billion pounds, or 59 percent, of chemicals in the last 18 years.