History and Vision
In 1989, a major environmental disaster shook public confidence in corporate America—the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Nearly 11 million gallons of oil poured into Alaska's Prince William Sound, devastating one of the world's most pristine habitats. Suddenly, the environmental cost of doing business became painfully clear and it was apparent that companies weren't doing enough to account for the environmental and social impacts of their operations. Six months after the spill, a group of investors launched an organization to tackle the problem: a nonprofit called Ceres.
Now, 25 years later, Ceres is mobilizing dozens of companies and hundreds of institutional investors to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy by reducing their environmental impacts and seizing the opportunities of a clean energy future.
In 2010, Ceres released the Ceres Roadmap for Sustainability, a veritable owner’s manual for the sustainable corporation. It contains 20 specific expectations for corporate performance broadly divided into four areas of activity— governance, stakeholder engagement, disclosure and performance.
This year, Ceres launched the Clean Trillion, highlighting the global investments needed to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, what scientist say is necessary to avoid the worst impacts of climate change and ensure a clean energy future.
At our founding, Ceres introduced a bold new vision to the business community – a vision of a world in which business and the capital markets promote the well-being of human society and the protection of the earth’s environment. Part of that vision was the Ceres Principles – a ten-point code of corporate environmental conduct to be publicly endorsed by companies as an environmental mission statement or ethic.
We advance this vision by bringing investors, environmental groups and other stakeholders together to encourage companies, investors and other economic players to incorporate environmental and social challenges into their day-to-day decision-making.
Ceres has achieved dramatic results throughout our 25-year history:
- Established 'climate risk' as a financial risk for investors and companies. Read more...
- Launched the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), now the de-facto international standard used by more than 1,800 companies for corporate reporting on environmental, social and economic performance.
- Launched the Climate Declaration, mobilizing more than 700 companies and thousands of individuals to declare support for U.S. action on climate change.
- Spearheaded dozens of breakthrough achievements with more than 80 companies, such as: Best Buy launching a cutting-edge buyback program for its electronics products; Canadian oil sands producer Suncor cutting water use by 22 percent and committing to additional reductions and rapid reclamation of tailings ponds; Ford committing to a 30 percent carbon emissions reduction target by 2020; and Bank of America setting and meeting greenhouse gas reduction goals in utility lending.
- Created the Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR), a group of 100 leading institutional investors managing $12 trillion in assets focused on the business impacts of climate change. Members include BlackRock, Deutsche Asset Management and TIAA-CREF, as well as public pension funds in California, Florida, New York and North Carolina.
- Spurred the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in February 2010 to issue formal guidance on climate change-related disclosure companies must provide to investors in their financial filings.
- Launched Business for Innovative Climate & Energy Policy (BICEP), a coalition of two dozen leading consumer brand companies, founded by Levi Strauss & Co., Nike, Starbucks and Timberland, advocating for strong climate and clean energy policies in the U.S.
- Recognizing the need to set higher expectations for how companies manage water, Ceres developed the Aqua GaugeTM— a free water stewardship assessment tool backed by investors managing $2 trillion in assets. Today, hundreds of companies in dozens of sectors are using the Ceres Aqua Gauge to evaluate their water performance and set ambitious new goals to reduce their impacts.
- Established a new standard for corporate sustainability performance: The 21st Century Corporation: The Ceres Roadmap for Sustainability, which outlines meaningful environmental and social performance improvements companies must make if they are to succeed in the resource-constrained 21st century global economy. The Ceres Roadmap is a cornerstone of Ceres efforts to bring investors, companies and other key economic players together to find scalable solutions for integrating sustainability across capital markets and the economy.
- Recipient of numerous awards, including the 2010 United Nations’ “Leader of Change” Award and the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship, and was named one of the top 100 corporate governance influencers by Directorship magazine. Learn more...