Many public corporations are buying into the importance of being concerned about sustainability, including environmental issues. That was the message in a speech on Saturday, April 27 at Leonardtown Library sponsored by the St. Mary’s County League of Women Voters.

Tricia Dunlap is an environmental lawyer with the Richmond, VA office of one of the country’s largest law firms, McGuireWoods. The title of her talk at the public forum had an Earth day message: “Help Save the Planet.”

Dunlap said that one of the prime examples of the corporate change of attitude is in how they issue their annual reports. She said ten years ago the few companies that issued reports on their sustainability efforts did so in separate reports from their normal financial reporting. She said that has changed recently with more companies doing sustainability reporting and more of them incorporating their efforts in the same document alongside the financial information.

The new level of reporting, she said, includes six “values”: Financial, manufacturing, natural, intellectual, human, and social and relationship. The reporting includes company efforts to reduce their carbon footprint, improve their human rights record, and reduce consumption of natural resources, such as water.

Dunlap used three large companies as an example of those that are making improvements: Bank of America, Ford and Coca Cola.

Bank of America is taking steps to improve its lending policies and they are also a leader in the so-called cap and trade movement. She said many large corporations who pollute are interested in a cap and trade mechanism.

Ford, she said, is a leader in human rights, with a program in India aimed at improving living conditions. They also are working to reduce carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2025. And they have a goal of using soy foam in 100 percent of their seat cushions.

Coca Cola is emphasizing water and energy efficiency. “Coca Cola’s goal is to be water neutral. They do a lot of work with gray water,” she said.

In addition to enlightened self-interest, a group called the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) has prodded the companies into changing reporting and doing more sustainably sensitive. She said 4,100 companies now report to the Carbon Disclosure Project. Of the S&P 500 companies, 70 percent now report to CDP.

During a question and answer session, Dunlap was asked how Pepsi was doing compared to Coke. She said they are doing quite well and are “neck and neck: with their c