Corporate Responsibility: Most top companies 'fail to tackle emissions'

Ben Cook

Only four of the companies listed on the FTSE100 make efforts to cut their carbon emissions, according to the 2005 Investec Climate Change Survey.

Although 47 of the 60 FTSE100 companies that responded to the survey said they felt climate change was "an issue" for their organisation, only Severn Trent, Diageo, HSBC and ITV said they "measured and endeavoured to limit" their carbon emissions.

Only 9 per cent of respondents believed investors would accept a lower return in exchange for a better environment, and 62 per cent were opposed to global rules limiting carbon emissions.

But despite the disappointing response, Investec said it expected more companies to tackle the problem, if only because of the soaring price of carbon credits.

Just over half of the companies surveyed said they had undertaken studies on climate change, and 88 per cent said they had employed environmental consultants.

Most responses to the survey came from companies in the finance, oil production, property, telecommunications, aviation and general utilities sectors.

Investec said there were fewer responses from companies in the pharmaceuticals, general retailing and technology sectors, with some companies concluding that it wasn't a "major issue" for them.

Nearly nine out of 10 companies said limiting carbon emissions was not an issue solely for them, but rather one to be addressed by government, private individuals, companies and investors.

The cost of carbon credits has more than doubled during the past three months, from EUR7 (£4.73) per tonne in February to EUR18 per tonne now. Investec fund manager John Hildebrand said he expected this increase to prompt more companies to take the issue seriously.

"Companies are more aware of this issue and might try to make disclosures about it in their annual reports because there is a direct implication for companies," he said.

"A few FTSE companies are already monitoring emissions and I think it will became a major corporate governance issue."

Hildebrand also predicted that once phase two of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme - a Europe-wide policy to cut carbon emissions - begins in 2008, more companies will start to tackle the problem of emissions, because more industry sectors will be covered.

"We would like to see a three-step process whereby companies monitor emissions, measure them and mitigate them," said Hildebrand. "And details of this should go in a company's report and accounts.

"We wanted to see whether companies were responding to these issues. The answer is yes, they are aware - it is on their radar screens."

But a Friends of the Earth spokesman said the fact that only four of the 60 respondents measured their carbon emissions showed that the Government needed to put more pressure on companies to tackle the problem.

He said: "Government ministers reel off lists of things they've done to make companies reduce emissions, but the fact that 56 out of 60 are not doing anything about it shows that the Government's supposed tough regime is not a tough regime.

"No one expects companies to reduce emissions out of the goodness of their hearts, so legal restrictions have to be put into place," added the spokesman.

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