Attention please: take the carbon challenge

See our green report online

The question is no longer: ‘Is climate change happening?’ but ‘what should we
do about it?’

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The same report named carbon reduction as one of the top 10 business issues;
74% of the 73 FTSE 350 CEOs questioned believed they possessed a good personal
grasp of the issue. However, only 14% of UK firms have a formal carbon reduction
strategy – why?

Two groups of business are now moving very quickly. Firstly, there are those
who acknowledge stakeholder pressures and, secondly, those – particularly heavy
carbon creators – who recognise that they can reduce short-term and long-term
costs while reducing emissions. That leaves a vast swathe of businesses that do
not see an economic case for significant change.

Having spent many years doing the obvious small things on the home front,
such as recycling, I recently realised that I could be green and save money.
I’ve invested in a domestic solar ‘power station’ in the back garden and the
sporty coupé has been traded in for a more economical mini diesel.

I have found these small steps a challenge. For example, the company that
owns my local electricity grid expects me to pay more than £20,000 to enable my
excess renewable energy to be put back into their system, so they can sell it

I accept that all of these changes only make a small impact on my
embarrassingly large primary carbon footprint of 30 tonnes per year. The biggest
contributor to this is flying for work. Am I really ready to take fewer business
flights knowing that my competitors will have flown in and won the work while
I’m still on the train?

Most businesses face similar challenges. There are easy wins in cost terms
and there are real benefits in listening to people, customers and other
stakeholders. But in the long term, how quickly do we need to change and how
will the competition respond? How will technology change?

It is clear from political reactions, including the recent Energy White
Paper, that some combination of tax, capping and trading and other regulation
will force the issue. Businesses, like individuals and governments, need a
thorough, well thought out response to climate change. In the meantime, grab the
easy short-term benefits and get planning for the challenges to come.

Alan Buckle is chief operating officer of KPMG

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