UK leads world in corporate carbon disclosure

Latest report from Carbon Disclosure Project suggests UK firms' climate change strategies have an edge over international rivals, but there is still plenty more work to do

The UK's largest firms are generally out-performing their global counterparts in their adoption of climate change strategies and willingness to report on their carbon emissions, according to figures released today by the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP).

The report details responses to data requests from the CDP from UK firms in the FTSE 350, and found that 90 per cent of FTSE 100 businesses provided information on climate change activities to the investor-backed lobby group - the highest proportion of any CDP sample group around the globe.

The study also found that while UK firms make up just seven per cent of the Global 500 list of the world's largest firms, those 34 companies represent 22 per cent of the CDP's leadership index, which highlights the firms providing the richest information on their climate change performance.

Paul Simpson, chief operating officer at the CDP, said there was evidence UK firms were carving out a leadership position in the development of carbon and climate change reporting policies.

"Partly it is due to the fact the UK has had a relatively tight regulatory regime, so they have had to embrace these measures, and partly it is down to UK consumers' high level of interest in climate change issues," he explained.

Simpson added there was also evidence those firms that are publicly reporting on their carbon footprint are measuring emissions in an increasingly " sophisticated manner", noting that the proportion of reporting companies providing data on so-called scope three emissions - including supply chains, corporate travel, product use and disposal - more than doubled over the past year to 50 per cent of the total.

However, the study also provided proof that the quality of carbon reporting and climate change strategies remains patchy.

Of the FTSE 250, 42 per cent failed to respond to the CDP's information requests, while even amongst those FTSE 350 firms that did respond only 44 per cent released carbon emission reduction targets.

"We'd like to see more firms adopting emission targets," said Simpson. "The proportion with targets climbed from 38 per cent last year to 44 per cent this, but that still means a majority of those companies that respond to us do not have targets."

He warned that the failure of many businesses, particularly smaller firms on the FTSE 250, to report on their carbon emissions suggested they were failing to adequately account for the commercial and legislative risks associated with climate change.

"With the Carbon Reduction Commitment [carbon emissions trading scheme] coming into effect from 2010 most of the FTSE 250 will face increased regulation," he argued. "If they are not reporting then it is hard to tell if they are accounting for those risks."

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