U.K. Leads World in Corporate Carbon Disclosure

U.K. Leads World in Corporate Carbon Disclosure

The United Kingdom's largest firms are generally outperforming their global counterparts in their adoption of climate change strategies and willingness to report on their carbon emissions, according to figures just released 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 percent 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 7 percent of the Global 500 list of the world's largest firms, those 34 companies represent 22 percent 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 that UK firms were carving out a leadership position in the development of carbon and climate change reporting policies.

"It is partly 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 3 emissions -- including supply chains, corporate travel, product use and disposal -- more than doubled over the past year to 50 percent 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 percent failed to respond to the CDP's information requests, while even amongst those FTSE 350 firms that did respond, only 44 percent released carbon emission reduction targets.

"We would like to see more firms adopting emission targets," said Simpson. "The proportion with targets climbed from 38 percent last year to 44 percent 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."