Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) is pleased to provide our seventh independent review of Duke Energy’s annual Sustainability Report. Our comments below reflect our knowledge of material sustainability issues for the electric utilities sector, familiarity with Duke Energy and the company’s reporting practices, and experience working with leading global companies to apply international standards and best practices in sustainability reporting. This review neither verifies nor expresses an opinion on the accuracy, materiality, or completeness of information provided in this report.
Significant achievements in the 2012 Report include:
- Helping consumers take charge of their energy use. This year’s report is notable for explaining the various ways that Duke Energy is driving consumer engagement and behavior change around energy efficiency. Through the “My Home Energy Report” and “SunSense” programs, as well as Duke Energy’s contributions to the “Envision Charlotte” program, Duke Energy is providing many incentives to change behavior at the consumer level — a necessary step along the sustainability journey. Achieving lasting impact will require consumers to understand their impacts as well as steps they can take to help, and Duke Energy’s programs are moving consumers in the right direction.
- Continued transition to renewable energy sources. We are pleased to see that Duke Energy is continuing its transition to more renewable sources of energy, notably wind and solar power. Coal burning plants are continuing to be retired or upgraded with new technology to reduce air emissions, while at the same time Duke Energy is increasing investments in long-term, renewable, and clean technologies.
- Commitment to employees and workforce sustainability. We are impressed by the sustainability commitments that Duke makes to its employees. The financial contribution to Weight Watchers to encourage healthy lifestyles, subsidies for public transportation, and significant efforts to develop a younger workforce in the face of “baby-boomer” retirements are encouraging signs about how Duke demonstrates sustainability principles within the company.
Areas that we wish to highlight for Duke Energy to address in future reports include:.
- Providing context around key environmental statistics. Duke Energy has improved reporting on several environmental metrics over the past several years, and the stakeholder community will be looking for Duke’s future reporting to include more context around key environmental metrics. For example, Duke provides detailed statistics on its current energy mix, and it will be important in future reports to describe what those statistics mean in light of Duke’s long-term sustainability strategy. Wherever possible, Duke should strive to assess how its current energy mix is positioned within the broader context of the latest understanding on climate change and long-term demand for renewable energy sources.
- Encourage diligent assessment of environmental impacts of natural gas. The market’s recent turn toward natural gas is a positive development in many respects, but the vast new supplies of natural gas are not without environmental and health concerns. We encourage Duke to critically assess the growing dialogue among consumers and stakeholders on natural gas, and proactively take advantage of opportunities to engage with natural gas suppliers to adopt best practices in understanding and mitigating the negative impacts.
- Maintain leadership on sustainability issues. With the merger between Duke Energy and Progress Energy and the departure of CEO Jim Rogers, now, more than ever, Duke should strive to continue being a leader in sustainability efforts. Duke’s transition to renewable energy sources is laudable, and hopefully that trend will continue as more cost-efficient renewable sources continue to come online. We also encourage Duke to continue being a first-mover on several sustainability issues and best practices during the first year as a new company. As the largest electric utility in the U.S., more people than ever will be looking to Duke for continued sustainability leadership, and hopefully following Duke’s lead.
We appreciate the opportunity to share our feedback and look forward to following Duke Energy’s ongoing sustainability journey.
Manager, Energy & Extractives
Business for Social Responsibility
April 4, 2013