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Follow the money.

That’s not only good journalism. It’s also a good way to uncover inconsistencies between what companies say and what they do.

An updated May 2012 report from the Union of Concerned Scientists, A Climate of Corporate Control, investigates how 28 U.S. companies talk about their sustainability actions with one hand, and where they spend money with the other.

Sometimes, like in the case of Nike, all the messages match. Other times, such as with energy companies, they don’t.

It’s an interesting read about how the money U.S. companies spend to support or discount  Climate Change science influences public opinion and shapes  policy decisions.

Via Union of Concerned Scientists website:

The 2012 UCS report, A Climate of Corporate Control, looks at statements and actions on climate science and policy by 28 U.S. companies, shows how these contributions can be problematic, and suggests steps that Congress, the public, the media, and companies themselves can take to address the problem.

In other words, a major corporation may be saying one thing in its Sustainability Report, but saying something different or spending money to influence another point of view elsewhere.

Like this:

Some corporations are contradictory in their actions, expressing concern about the threat of climate change in some venues—such as company websites, Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) filings, annual reports, or statements to Congress—while working to weaken policy responses to climate change in others.

As customers, shareholders, and business owners, we hold power to encourage more transparent, factual conversations with the companies we do business with, invest in, and support with our loyalty.

It’s up to us to start them.

In the eyes of non-profit corporate sustainability group Ceres, environmental and social sustainability issues are material “balance sheet” issues.

Think about that for a second. This mindset calls for a full accounting of everything that goes into a business’ profit and loss statement. I’m talking about the real one, with the numbers. Not just the sidebar Corporate Responsibility brochure.

Via Ceres.com:

For businesses in all sectors of the economy, sustainability is a strategy for building long-term shareholder value, managing environmental and social risks, and improving competitiveness. Environmental and social sustainability issues are material “balance sheet” issues. They pose risks and present opportunities that will drive the success of corporations.

And if this is case, the logical conclusion is to link compensation with sustainability results.

Ceres Vice President Andrea Moffett lays out the case for this in her Apr. 24 blog post: It’s Time to Link Compensation With Sustainability

Good ideas.