Large UK Companies Don't Know Their Carbon Footprint

With pressure building to become a low carbon economy, UK businesses are facing a bleak future if they do not take steps to reduce their carbon footprint. It is therefore surprising that many of the largest companies and businesses in the UK don’t yet have any clear idea of what their carbon footprint is, never mind how they can make it smaller.

A recent company survey carried out by the Carbon Trust showed that 200 senior financial managers in British companies knew that we are facing a major change to a low carbon economy. Despite this savvy, most of them, who are responsible for companies operating in financial services, consumer goods, retail, the leisure and entertainment industry, IT and communications technology and professional services, had no clue what their company’s carbon footprint was. Almost half of the companies involved had not made good plans to reduce their carbon emissions and had not set up measures to become more ecofriendly.

With the UK trying to reduce its carbon emissions substantially by 2020, this is not good news.

Fingers on the Pulse of a Green Economy?

The details of the survey carried out and published by the Carbon Trust is also of concern for the insight that apparently is lacking among senior financial managers in British Industry. While most of the ones questioned (around 60 per cent) believed that the UK would have to develop a greener economy within the next 10 years, and just over 25 per cent thought that this might happen in the next five years, a worrying ten percent thought that this had already happened. Even so, they didn’t feel it was an urgent matter to prepare or change the way their company operated.

Is Going Green a Business Plus?

Some managers think so and see entering a more competitive era, with carbon emissions and corporate carbon footprints coming to the fore, as a positive move. These tend to be the companies who have already investigated their carbon footprint, and have taken steps to reduce it, so are well ahead of the other, more reactionary companies included in the survey. Most of these (83%) were in the financial services, professional services or retail sectors.

Moving Forward with Business

Clearly, there is quite a lot of ground to cover to bring British businesses into line with government policy and public thinking. Most of the financial managers included in the survey were keen to make their companies more energy efficient and to cut costs, to cut carbon emissions to comply with regulations and to try to match the expectations of their customers. However, less than half thought that becoming carbon neutral or reducing their carbon emissions substantially was likely to increase their chances of gaining new business.

Many proactive advisors to medium and large businesses argue that companies need to be much more proactive. All need to make themselves more energy efficient so that they use up less valuable fossil fuels, so cutting their emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. It is also important for companies to tap into renewable sources of energy wherever possible, whether it is solar power, wind power or a heat pump in the car park.

Measuring carbon dioxide and other emissions, and working out an accurate carbon footprint is also necessary, as it provides an accurate benchmark for every company to measure their progress against once a corporate plan to become more energy efficient has been put in place.

Facing the Costs of Being Green

Many companies may not be facing the future with enthusiasm because they realise that a substantial investment is required to switch over to renewable fuels, more efficient technologies, and a general commitment to reducing their carbon footprint. So far, they have been OK with this policy as regulations and legislation have not been strict enough to force them to change. As we approach 2020, however, with the targets set by Kyoto looming, more companies will need to face their responsibilities and costs, otherwise they will find themselves paying much larger financial penalties in the long run.