Companies seen to pay lip service to green issues

LONDON (Reuters) - Companies across the world never miss an opportunity to flaunt their green credentials, but only about a quarter of them actually have specific targets to cut their carbon footprint, a survey showed on Thursday.

The survey by the London-based research advisory group, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), revealed that while up to two-thirds of companies worldwide had a board-level executive responsible for energy and the environment, only 45 percent of them had a programme to cut their carbon footprint.

“And those that do have a carbon reduction strategy, the majority -- 52 percent -- have no specific targets for it,” the EIU, which polled over 200 executives worldwide, said.

It said only 9 percent of the executives surveyed said their firms aimed to be carbon neutral by 2012. Going carbon neutral means offsetting your total emissions of the greenhouse gases blamed for global warming, by paying someone else to make emissions cuts for you.

A separate survey of investors released earlier this week said climate change was spurring a “worldwide economic and industrial restructuring” as more and more of the world’s largest companies sought to confront global warming.

However, some big firms were still doing far too little to identify risks and opportunities from climate change, said the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), which represents more than 315 institutional investors managing $41 trillion in assets.

The IBM-sponsored EIU survey was harsh in its criticism of British companies.

It said firms in the UK were among the quickest to assign responsibility at board level to address climate challenge, but they were the slowest to take any actual action and few had put plans in place to reduce their overall carbon impact.

Almost two thirds of UK companies had a board-level executive responsible for energy and environmental issues, ahead of Western Europe at 62 percent, North America at 53 percent or the Asia Pacific at 37 percent.

“However, 57 percent of UK companies have no programme in place to reduce their overall carbon impact,” the EIU said, adding that the figure was similar in Western Europe.

In North America, 55 percent of companies had no programme to reduce their overall carbon impact, while for the Asia-Pacific, that number was 54 percent.