Friday, May 27, 2011

Steps Forward, Steps Back

Lockheed-Martin, the large military contractor, recently reported progress in corporate sustainability.

The company met its waste-to-landfill goal two years early, and instituted a green IT program that has saved $2.6 million a year.  It decreased its waste generation that ends up in landfills by 26% between 2007 and 2010, beating its goal of a 25% reduction by 2012.  It also has consolidated 4,000 data servers since 2008, saving 26 million kilowatt hours of electricity.

Lockheed says it is on track to meet its goals for a 25% reduction in water use and greenhouse-gas emissions by 2012.  Since 2007, it has reduced its water usage by 22% and its carbon emissions by 15%.

The Carbon Disclosure Project has named Lockheed as an environmental leader for its GHG reduction efforts.

Finally, the company has expanded its sustainable supply chain program to eliminate extra packaging and to use more recycled content containers.

Despite these laudable accomplishments, the company still has work to do with legacy pollution.  Lockheed has been fined several times recently in pollution cases concerning contaminated groundwater at two Superfund sites near Los Angeles.

There are also fundamental issues concerning such positive press releases.  Are the announced gains true?  Reports of a company’s financial results require audits using generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) in order for investors to have confidence in the accuracy and truthfulness of the reported results.  It seems that as sustainability factors take on more importance, it will be important to work toward a similar level of independent verification. 

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