Finance chiefs ignore carbon countingUnited Kingdom
A survey by the Carbon Trust Standard reveals that many UK companies are not ready to measure their carbon footprint
Advocates of corporate responsibility for carbon reduction have suffered a blow with the publication of a survey showing that the majority of financial managers from 200 large companies have acknowledged that their organisations do not yet know their carbon footprint.
Produced by the Carbon Trust Standard, it shows that 74% of respondents said that their organisation does not currently measure its carbon footprint, while 76% believe that all businesses will be legally obliged to pay for their emissions in the future. 40% said they believe this will happen in the next decade.
A surprisingly high 87% also said that their companies do not currently have publicly disclosed targets for carbon reduction. 48% said targets were in place but had not been made public.
The revelations were based on a UK-wide survey of senior financial managers from UK companies that employ more than 500 people. It ranged across six sectors: retail, professional services, financial services, technology and communications, fast moving consumer goods, and leisure and entertainment.
Harry Morrison, general manager of the Carbon Trust Standard (CTS) which commissioned the survey, said: "Businesses realise that the switch to a low carbon economy is happening (but) … they don't have all the data they require at the moment".
He said the CTS deliberately targeted financial managers because it believes their involvement will be vital in auditing carbon and forming strategies in a carbon constrained economy: "We're now seeing a real trend for companies to bring … the reporting of carbon into their financial departments because (they can bring)… the rigour and the audit to that data."
"With new regulations coming into force, carbon is effectively money."
The survey results will surprise some observers, given that most of the companies are required to report their emissions under the government's Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) energy efficiency scheme, which came into force in April. The scheme is compulsory for all companies that consumed more than 6,000 MWh of half-hourly-metered electricity during 2008, but excludes those that are already part of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme or Climate Change Agreements.
Morrison said that, although not all companies included in its survey would be covered, there is likely to be a significant overlap. "We do know that the sectors that we picked, and indeed the size of organisations we picked, are quite likely to be affected by the CRC," he said.
So far only 1,400 out of the 3,000-4,000 organisations expected to be eligible for the scheme have registered, despite the 30 September deadline. A further 5,000 out of 14,000 organisations have disclosed energy use data, although they will not be eligible to pay for their carbon footprint.
Companies that do not register in time will have to pay a £5,000 fine as well as £500 for every day over the deadline. Penalties are also charged for incorrect or inadequate reporting at a rate of £40 per tonne of CO2.
Tony Grayling, head of climate change and sustainable development for the scheme's administrator the Environment Agency, said he expected a "flurry of activity" just before the deadline.
When presented with the findings of the CTS survey he admitted it was a concern, but said that "it's precisely to address that kind of concern that the CRC has been established".
He added: "Financial directors are becoming much more directly aware of the carbon costs of their business' activities and indeed the benefits to them of reducing those costs."
In a bid to encourage organisations to register early, the Environment Agency recently circulated an email instructing companies to register even if they suspect inaccuracies in their data.
Grayling said: "The message we're trying to get across is that if you're making genuine efforts to work with us to submit accurate information, then we won't need to pursue you for civil penalties. We do accept that some companies inadvertently make mistakes."
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