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The Guardian: Climate change produces little shift in corporate attitudes

Murray Armstrong
Monday November 6, 2006

The issue of corporate responsibility has moved up the political agenda and was the subject of a high-level seminar hosted by Gordon Brown at No 11 Downing Street last week as the Guardian today reveals that FTSE 100 companies are spending less on the issue.

The top 100 companies in the UK spent 0.79% of their pre-tax profits measuring and mitigating the social and environmental impacts of their businesses. The Guardian’s sixth annual social survey of stock market-listed companies, the Giving List, reveals today that the figure is down on last year’s 0.87%. The total amount invested in community responsibilities was £986m.

Organised by the Smith Institute and attended by about 50 senior industry figures, the chancellor’s seminar last week was addressed by the industry minister, Margaret Hodge; Julia Unwin, of the Food Standards Agency, and Paul Walsh, chief executive of Diageo.
The focus of corporate responsibility is changing fast, spurred by the publication last week of Sir Nicholas Stern’s review of global warming, commissioned by the Treasury. Legislation on climate change is expected to be announced in the Queen’s speech on Wednesday next week.

Every company in the FTSE 100 now produces a corporate responsibility report and, according to the Carbon Neutral Company, 80 of them have identified climate change as a business risk. But only 38 of those have targets for emissions reduction, and a majority of the FTSE 250 have yet to acknowledge the issue publicly.

A Giving List investigation of the world’s 10 biggest corporations shows that only four of them have published strategies for reducing their carbon footprints.

Sally Uren, director of the sustainable development charity Forum for the Future, carried out the study. “The reduction targets are small, relative to the threat of climate change,” she reports. “By 2010, BP and Toyota aim for a 10% reduction, General Motors an 8% reduction and Shell a 5% reduction in their total global carbon dioxide emissions. In comparison, the UK government has committed to reduce carbon dioxide levels by 20% before 2010 and has set a 60% target by 2050. At current rates it would take the companies listed a lot longer to achieve the same target – time we haven’t got.”

The former US vice-president Al Gore, appointed as an environmental adviser to the British government by Mr Brown last week, has challenged businesses to put sustainability at the centre of their activities. He told a Global Reporting Initiative conference in Amsterdam that sustainability reporting is no longer a niche activity. “The old way of measuring value is becoming irrelevant,” he said.

Sainsbury’s is top of the Giving List this year, earmarking 7% of pre-tax profits for social and environmental affairs, followed by ITV with 6.2% and Northern Rock with 5%. The top 15 companies gave 1% or more; 22 gave between 0.5% and 1%, and the bottom 19 gave less than 0.01%.,,1940300,00.html and its sister websites,,,,, and are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

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