BT: Companies Must Close Carbon Chasm

CloudCloud ManagementGreen-ITInnovationLegalRegulation

But, like many businesses, the telecoms and IT services giant is also struggling financially which raises questions over its ability to really make drastic cuts in carbon

Companies are lagging behind the goal of cutting emissions by 80 percent by 2050 and must take radical action to improve their strategies to reduce green house gas emissions according to a report from environmental experts and BT.

The research report, The Carbon Chasm, released this week by the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) and supported by BT, shows that top 100 global companies are only on target for reducing their emissions by just 1.9 percent per year compared to the 3.9 percent needed to achieve the 2050 target.

“Most large companies now measure their carbon footprint and many have set carbon reduction targets. But how many of those targets are actually in line with the required reductions to prevent dangerous climate change? The research highlights a significant gap between what is needed from the corporate sector and what’s currently promised,” said BT’s chief sustainability officer Chris Tuppen commented. “We in the business world need to find a way of closing this carbon chasm.”

According to the report, many companies have only set their carbon reduction goals as far as 2012 – the final year of the Kyoto Protocol – and are waiting to hear the outcome of the climate talks in Copenhagen this December before making any further commitments.

“While 73 percent of Global 100 companies have set some form of reduction target, the majority need to be far more aggressive if they are to achieve the long-term reductions required,” said Paul Dickinson, chief executive office of the Carbon Disclosure Project which claims to have the largest database of business-related climate change information in the world. “This is a time of huge opportunity for businesses to gain competitive advantage by reducing their own impact on the climate and benefit from associated cost savings, as well as sparking major innovation around the production of new, lower carbon products and services

CDP claims companies should be assessing exactly how much carbon their business is producing and responsible for, while governments need to set clear medium and long term carbon reduction goals in Copenhagen so businesses can set their strategies accordingly.

When it comes to IT specifically, tech departments will have to make huge cuts in the power they use, to reach the UK’s mandatory targets for emission of greenhouse gases – but those reductions are possible through better management of servers and desktops, according to analysts.

“The UK has promised to reduce its carbon emissions by 34 percent before 2020 (over 1990 levels), and by 80 percent before 2050, in the Climate Change Act of 2008, and these will require serious changes to the way we operate”, said David Tebbutt, programme director at Freeform Dynamics speaking at a recent online summit hosted by BritghtTalk.

BT claims to have begun reducing its carbon footprint in 1996 and states that it has already reduced it by 58 percent. “Our challenge now is to achieve an 80 percent reduction in CO2 intensity world-wide by 2020,” the company states.

But while companies may be ready to embrace carbon reduction strategies that also help to cut financial costs, it is less clear if many will have the impetus to take altruistic environmental action given the continuing tough economic conditions.

BT for example, announced this week that it plans to suspend its graduate recruitment scheme in 2010 and has also made significant job cuts this year citing the impact of the recession.

According to Andy Lawrence, director of research, Eco-Efficient IT, The 451 Group while IT and other business strategies that help cut costs are being embraced – many executives are still wary of “green” actions that could impact their company’s financial performance and reflect negatively on them as a result. “Corporate and Social Responsibility is not as immediately persuasive to a business manager worried about his job, his bonus or his company’s survival. Many executives are actually calling for stronger legislation, because it levels the playing field – everyone has to do it and everyone will bear the cost,” he said.

BT has clashed with the government over greenhouse gas emission targets. The company recently claimed that the government’s advice on how to account for greenhouse gas emissions is still confused, and will prevent companies generating renewable electricity.

BT has planned to generate 250MW of its own electricity through wind farms, as part of a £250 million plan to cut its carbon footprint, but said earlier this year that the plan would be uneconomic under proposed carbon accounting rules due to come into force by 2012, and could be cancelled.