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The Guardian: Half of UK’s top firms fail to publish plans to cut carbon emissions

Monday November 5 2007

· Green List reveals mixed reaction to climate change
· Voluntary action too little, says Friends of the Earth

Murray Armstrong and David Adam

Only 48 of the top 100 companies trading on the UK stock exchange have published a plan to address and reduce their carbon emissions and a significant minority refuse even to reveal their carbon footprint, a Guardian survey shows.

The Guardian Green List is published a year after the landmark Stern Review, which warned that the economic impact of global warming could rival that of the two world wars and the Great Depression, and warned that all sectors of the economy would need to cut emissions.

Tony Juniper, head of Friends of the Earth, said: “Sadly I’m not surprised. For years we’ve talked about the limits to voluntary action. These companies need to have clear economic and regulatory signals from government that they need to work out how to reduce their emissions, because otherwise they won’t, and your survey shows that. If we are to move towards 80% cuts in carbon dioxide by 2050 then we need all companies to engage on this issue at boardroom level.”

Separate inquiries for the Green List find that 68 of the FTSE 100 companies have collected and published information about their carbon footprints through the Carbon Disclosure Project, a group of institutional investors. A further 18 companies reported their figures to the project but refused to allow the information to be made public.

Tim Brooks, senior analyst at Greenstone Carbon Management, an environmental consultancy, said: “The results show that large corporates are seeing both the financial and environment benefits of measuring and reporting their CO2 emissions in a way which they didn’t five years ago.”

The cost to those 100 companies of trading their way out of the pollution zone could be as much as £16.3bn through the European Union cap and trade scheme. That represents an average 9% of present pre-tax profits.

The social cost of those businesses becoming low carbon operations is, according to Treasury estimates, about £48bn.

Tesco boss, Sir Terry Leahy, said: “Too few organisations – governments or companies – are alert to the challenge climate change poses.” He predicted that by working with consumers, “we can turn the green movement into a mass movement”.

In a separate study for the Guardian, the sustainable development charity Forum for the Future analyses the carbon footprints of the top 10 global companies, which between them emit the same amount of carbon dioxide a year as the entire UK.

ExxonMobil has the highest emissions in the group, equivalent to the annual discharge from Saudi Arabia. Sally Uren, director of the organisation’s business programme, writes: “Five of the 10 – Exxon, DaimlerChrysler, Chevron, Total and ConocoPhillips – do not appear to have published targets to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.” The remaining five – Wal-Mart, Shell, BP, General Motors and Toyota – have publicly disclosed varying levels of sustainable investment.

Dr Uren adds: “Carbon is becoming the new currency of business. Those businesses that use it wisely will be rewarded. Those that overspend will, along with their business models, be consigned to history.”

The results of Ipsos-Mori’s annual survey of attitudes to corporate responsibility, also published in the Green List, shows concern for the environment should be the major focus for business. The greatest number of respondents – 45% – say it should now be the highest priority.

Publication of the climate change bill this month and its subsequent passage through parliament may help raise the awareness of the problem among UK businesses. According to the government support organisation Envirowise just a third of small firms are trying to reduce their environmental impact. and its sister websites,,,,, and are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

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