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Companies are measuring their carbon footprint

Corporations are weighing risk and reward in their management of carbon emissions.

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building with cement and carbon footprint reduction About 75 percent of companies are actively measuring their "carbon footprint" -- the range of carbon emissions from their operations, both direct and indirect, according to a report released from The Conference Board.

The survey of 92 companies from various industrie looks at how companies integrate greenhouse gas management into their overall business strategy.

More than 95 percent report anticipating a carbon- concerned future as creating both business risk and opportunity.

One-half indicate they have a program in place to "actively reduce or offset greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions." An additional 33 percent are developing such programs, while 15 percent have no plans to do so. Nearly all programs include reductions in energy use, while most (83 percent) are simultaneously focused on reducing GHGs. One-third are focused primarily on direct emissions -- those resulting from fuel consumption or from materials used in their processes -- while two-thirds include both direct and indirect emissions (primarily purchased electricity).

Fewer than 20 percent have attempted to measure their competitors' carbon footprints, which may reflect the complexity and difficulty in doing so or indicate that the issue is not perceived as a major competitive challenge at this time.

Only 15 percent of the companies now engage in voluntary emissions trading, but an additional 40 percent are considering it. Among those companies engaging in voluntary trading, motivations include:

  • anticipation of potential regulation;
  • to develop a track record for possible credit for prior emissions reductions;
  • reputation benefits;
  • to learn the process

Some organizations "sequester" carbon so that emissions released in one locale can be either consumed by growing vegetation or physically sequestered in geological formations. Nearly 44 percent of surveyed companies are either involved in sequestration projects or considering them.

Other approaches that companies are pursuing include the purchase of "green power" and renewable energy credits, including investment in "Clean Development Mechanism" projects in developing countries to create emissions credits (an approach created under the Kyoto Protocol).

Companies were asked how they address greenhouse gas emissions management within their companies. Fifty-six percent assigned a responsible senior executive to coordinate company actions, while 44 percent have not done so. At the board level, the issue is on the agenda at over two-thirds of the companies.

Because of the increasing public interest and concern about GHGs and carbon, about one-half of companies are currently reporting publicly. Of those that do not, 60 percent plan to report on their GHG management in the near future. Reporting is done through a variety of channels, including the sustainability or corporate citizenship report, websites, press releases, and annual reports.


Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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