Recapture Report: First-Ever ‘Fortune 500 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Report’ Estimates 13 Billion Tonnes of GHG Emitted Annually

Recapture 2018-2019 Fortune 500 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Report

2018-2019 Fortune 500 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Report, authored by Adele Barbato with lead research conducted by Eric Kenny

“Imagine a dump-truck backing up to fill-in an ever expanding sinkhole with just one pebble.”

The 2018-2019 Fortune 500 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Report, authored by Adele Barbato with lead research conducted by Eric Kenny, clarifies the impact the United States’ largest companies have on earth’s warming atmosphere. Using a combination of publicly-reported data and estimated emission inventories calculated by Recapture, this report provides the first complete greenhouse gas footprint (measured throughout in tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent units, or “tonnes of CO₂e”) across all scoped emissions attributed to every company on the Fortune 500 lists for 2018 and 2019—the last years in which the global economy operated at a capacity unaffected by the COVID pandemic.

Calculating the Fortune 500’s scoped emissions has resulted in the following high-level conclusions:

  • The combined GHG footprint for Fortune 500 companies is estimated to have been 13.34 billion tonnes CO₂e in 2018 and 13.15 billion tonnes CO₂e in 2019.
  • Emissions are being underreported by about 40%.
  • Prevalent inconsistency in reporting is providing unreliable GHG footprint counts.
  • Current GHG reduction solutions are inadequate to meet the full potential impact of even just the F500 companies’, never mind global emissions.

Deeper analysis of GHG emission volumes and reporting practices of the 2018-2019 Fortune 500 companies reveals:

  • Almost one third of companies in the F500 are not publicly reporting emissions of any kind, a fact previously unreported by any journalist outlet.
  • Corporate emission footprints publicly disclosed to stakeholders often cite lower volumes of emissions than what is disclosed to CDP, a fact recently confirmed in reporting by Saijel Kishan from Bloomberg.
  • Roughly half of the Fortune 500 companies voluntarily report their emissions, either in part or in full.
  • The volume of carbon credits currently available in the voluntary carbon market comes nowhere near meeting current or future demand. In fact, the less than 10 million tonnes CO₂e of new carbon removal credits issued in 2020 wouldn’t be enough to remove the emissions from even one company on the Fortune 500.

The report makes the case that even though more than 23% of the companies listed have made net zero commitments by 2030 or 2040, there are only enough carbon credits to address about 3% of that collective footprint—and that gap is not getting smaller according to the State of Forest Carbon Finance 2021 report. Philip-Michael Weiner, a Founding Partner at Recapture, describes this gap using the following analogy: “Imagine a dump-truck backing up to fill-in an ever expanding sinkhole with just one pebble.”

“We undertook this study because we believe that large corporates are directly responsible for a large portion of emissions related to global warming, and they are not providing complete data to back-up realistic pathways to net zero. We, as U.S. and global citizens, cannot expect policymakers to make informed decisions with the current metrics available,” added Philip-Michael. “We believe that Americans have the right to data on just how much the most financially successful US companies have an impact on facilitating climate change.”

The report makes additional recommendations that governmental regulation and centralized oversight is likely required to ensure emission reporting, carbon removal, an appropriately incentivized carbon market, and the development of other climate solutions accelerate on schedule with science-based targets. And, according to Recapture’s research, a combination of carbon removal and renewable energy deployment are the only solutions currently available that have the potential to match the GHG reduction needed based on estimated emission rates, however their efficacy is dependent on the ability to scale adoption in these two industries at an urgent pace.

The 2018-2019 Fortune 500 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Report is part of a series of freely available Recapture reports and insights that examine the scope of corporate climate commitments in the United States and future regions including Europe and Asia Pacific. Visit Recapture’s Net Zero Resources to learn more.

About Recapture
Recapture, a profit-driven carbon project developer, was born out of the need for net zero solutions that help large enterprises mitigate against the risk of global warming without incurring impossible costs. The company develops systems-designed carbon removal projects for emitters that remove 10 times more carbon dioxide (CO₂) than natural solutions on their own. By combining climate smart forestry, with sustainable timber harvesting as a financial mechanism for direct air capture, Recapture projects are able to permanently remove a company’s entire carbon footprint while earning the business a positive financial return. To learn more about carbon removal, check out Recapture’s Corporate Net Zero Series. A playbook for taking your company to net zero emissions in a way that is profitable and scalable to the level needed to halt global warming.

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