Irish firms start to see fiscal benefits of carbon reporting

18 Oct 2011

Jim Corbett, MD, Bewley's; Gary McGann, CEO, Smurfit Kappa Group; and Tanya Harrington, director of the NTR Foundation, at the launch of the CDP Ireland Report 2011 at the Convention Centre Dublin

Irish business leaders are starting to put sustainability and carbon reporting at the core of their business-planning strategies, recognising both the challenges and the opportunities arising from climate change and emissions reduction strategies. That’s according to the latest Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) report for Ireland, ‘Preparing for the Low Carbon Economy’, released today in Dublin.

The 2011 CDP report for Ireland was launched in the Convention Centre Dublin today.

A key theme from the ‘Preparing for the Low Carbon Economy’ report is that the ‘tone at the top’ influences the wider organisation’s view and commitment to addressing climate change. In all, 72pc of respondents reported that responsibility for climate change issues rested at board level, demonstrating the significant importance of this issue to Irish companies.

Highlights from the CDP Ireland Report 2011

  • 33 Irish companies responded this year, compared with 29 responses in 2010 (and 16 in 2009).
  • 19 of the largest businesses listed on the ISEQ participated in the project.
  • Eight Irish businesses scored more than 75pc for the quality of their disclosures, including: Bewley’s; Bord na Mona; CRH plc; DCC; Diageo plc; Endesa; Smurfit Kappa Group plc; and Tesco plc.
  • 90pc of respondents have emissions reduction actions in place; although only 48pc have set themselves reduction targets.
  • 74pc of ISEQ companies that responded published additional information (such as CSR and sustainability reports), indicating that larger Irish organisations are giving increased attention to the management of climate change issues well beyond the completion of the CDP questionnaire, said CDP Ireland today.

Commenting on the results of the 2011 Report, Dick Budden, Ireland director of the CDP, said: “It is good to hear Irish business leaders talking so positively about the ways their businesses are preparing for the low-carbon economy; addressing the issues of environmental sustainability, reducing their carbon footprint and turning the whole process into a competitive advantage. Their determination and courage in making this public commitment will, I am sure, help others also to take on the challenge of responding to the climate change issue.”

Three leading Irish businesses delivered keynote speeches at the launch. Gary McGann, CEO, Smurfit Kappa Group, spoke about how the group has placed sustainability at the heart of its business for many years.

“Sustainability is an integral part of our business strategy and perfectly compatible with profitable growth. Our approach to sustainability and the environment also has to make commercial sense. In fact, it has major commercial value.”

Gabriel D’Arcy, MD, Bord na Móna, said there is “clear evidence” companies can be sustainable in their practices and remain profitable. “Successful companies are embracing technologies and opportunities that are built on sustainable building blocks,” said D’Arcy.

Jim Corbett, MD, Bewley’s Coffee and Tea, said sustainability is very much “a business issue, not simply one of corporate social responsibility, so difficult economic times should not deter companies”.

He said that 2009 was Bewley’s Coffee and Tea’s first year of being fully certified as carbon neutral.

“We have retained this status since then. Participating in CDP is a business-positive activity and engaging with other managers in the same thought space, through the CDP, brings us new ideas and new thinking.”

Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government, Phil Hogan, TD, was also at the event. “We face major challenges in making the transition to a low-carbon future, but it is only through initiatives like the CDP that industry can both make its contribution, and ensure its competitiveness in a global green economy. This Government is fully committed to a progressive national climate change policy agenda that will underpin our successful transition to a competitive low-carbon future,” said Hogan.

Looking at the supply chain; sustainability no longer just an ‘option’ for firms

Tanya Harrington, director of the NTR Foundation, touched on businesses and their supply chains:

“By examining their own and their suppliers’ consumption patterns and related emissions, Irish companies are identifying opportunities for cost-saving reductions and changes to their business formula that will strengthen them for the future.”

Terence O’Rourke, managing partner, KPMG, added how sustainability has gone mainstream. “Insightful Irish business leaders have decided that inaction is not an option. Sustainability is no longer a mere optional ‘bolt-on’ – rather it is moving centre stage on the board agenda at least in part because of the opportunity it can provide.”

Principally sponsored by the NTR Foundation, the CDP 2011 report for Ireland was prepared by KPMG.

CDP in Ireland is also supported by the EPA, the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland and McCann FitzGerald.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic