Science & Environment

Carbon counting is 'good for business'

Spools in a factory
Image caption Reporting emissions did not tie businesses up in tape, the report found

UK companies that measure their carbon emissions do not find the exercise arduous or expensive - and some say it brings benefits, a report concludes.

The report was commissioned by the government as it prepares to decide if emissions reporting will be mandatory.

Just over half the firms surveyed said reporting emissions carried a net benefit for their business.

The CBI welcomed the finding, affirming that it "strongly supports" emissions reporting because it helps cut carbon.

The researchers - from consultants PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), a non-profit organisation helping companies to count carbon - used a range of methods, including a survey of 155 companies, focus groups, interviews and reviews of information already in the public domain.

They found no direct tangible benefits from the act of reporting emissions; but, they relate, reporting emissions forces a company to measure them first, and that does bring benefits.

Companies reported that measuring emissions produced an incentive to reduce them, through routes that include spending less on energy.

"Reporting drives the action of measuring, helping companies to identify opportunities for emission reductions," said Joanna Lee, chief partnerships officer at CDP.

"It also helps companies set meaningful and achievable reduction targets, as well as advancing better risk management and increased awareness of new market opportunities."

Most companies said the costs of measuring and reporting emissions did not meaningfully impact their businesses, with two-thirds spending less than £50,000 on the exercises.

The majority said the benefits outweighed the costs.

Decision time

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), which commissioned the research, said it was encouraged by the findings.

"I am pleased to see that the many companies already voluntarily involved in reporting greenhouse gas emissions are finding the process beneficial to their business and investors," said Environment Minister Lord Henley

"The next steps for government will be to consider the findings of the report. We'll be announcing a way forward in early 2011."

The Climate Change Act requires government to make emissions reporting mandatory by 2012, or to explain to parliament why it has not done so.

The Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA), whose own research shows that only 22% of FTSE-listed companies are fully reporting greenhouse gas emissions, urged the government to act swiftly, or risk being left behind by other countries.

"Government needs to act now to introduce mandatory reporting to ensure that UK businesses gain the benefits from embedding sustainability into their corporate strategy," said Martin Baxter, IEMA's executive director of policy.

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