Monthly Archives: October 2016

From good intentions to meaningful actions: CSR in the Electric Power Sector


RobecoSam | Sustainability Indices | 2016

Providing data to CSR rating schemes may signal that a company is prepared to take responsibility for its environmental, social, and economic impacts, but the correlation between responding to CSR rating schemes and taking meaningful action to minimize impacts is not entirely clear. Elisabeth Rutledge, MCP 15 focuses on the electric sector to learn more. The two most widely using rating schemes in this industry are the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) and the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI). Based on interviews with key participants she concludes that these CSR rating schemes have succeeded in encouraging companies to disclose corporate sustainability data voluntarily, but given certain perverse incentives, reporting does not necessarily motivate appropriate action. Elisabeth highlights some positive effects that CSR reporting does have on internal corporate policies.

What do you think are some of the features of CSR assessments are that companies are ignoring? How can we ensure better standardization and more trust in CSR scores? Elisabeth suggests a number of ways of restructuring current CSR rating schemes. You can find these recommendations in the full version of Elisabeth’s thesis here.

The role of Massachusetts in making a case for the adoption of a nationwide carbon tax policy


Massachusetts’ Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA) passed in 2008 committed the state to reducing carbon emissions 25% below 1990 levels by 2020 and 80% by 2050. Progress towards meeting these targets has been uneven, especially when it comes to transportation improvements and land use policy. This is especially worrisome given that transportation emissions are likely to rise over the next few years. One possible solution, supported by much of the environmental community, is the adoption of a revenue-neutral carbon tax or carbon fee. This would levy an additional fee on fossil fuel consumption, but distribute the revenue back to the state’s residents instead of adding it to the state budget. MCP 15 Elizabeth argues that this would be a mistake. She draws from a spatial analysis of passenger vehicle driving patterns in Massachusetts, a case study of British Columbia’s successful revenue-neutral carbon tax, and analysis of the current political landscape in Massachusetts to make her case. What are the flaws in this potential strategy? How do the state’s efforts relate to nationwide efforts to adopt a carbon tax? You can find the answers to these questions and more by downloading Elizabeth’s thesis in the following link:


The power dynamics behind mitigation and adaptation in Somerville, MA


The impacts of climate change are driving cities to adopt both preventive and reactive measures. With increasingly constrained resources, cities seem to be pushed in two different directions. MCP 15, Mia Goldwasser argues that integrating both preventive (mitigation) and reactive (adaptation) measures is necessary to achieve the most important political, community, and sustainability goals. Mia uses the case of Somerville, MA’s experience — developing their first climate change plan – to substantiate her premise. She developed recommendations for Somerville based on what other cities’ have done. What does it takes for such integration to succeed? To read more about this you can access Mia’s thesis in the following link:

Assessing Cal-Adapt, California’s climate adaptation tool


In light of the different kinds of impacts that climate change might cause, it is imperative not only to learn about local risks but also to think about how to respond effectively to climate-induced changes. In the last few years, there have been many tools created to generate climate change forecasts and provide guidance to communities trying to understand their vulnerabilities. One of these tools is Cal-Adapt, produced by the State of California. MCP student Melissa Deas examines both the practicality and value of this tool for communities in California. She specifically explores whether the information provided by Cal-Adapt is helping communities increase their resilience. Melissa assesses the collaboration that brought together decision-makers, stakeholders and scientists. She concludes that collaborations like this can be a powerful way to create legitimacy for climate action. To learn whether Cal-Adapt is making a difference in the state of California, see the following link: