Business can take the lead on carbon

By Tony Cates, Head of Audit at KPMG in the UK

As KPMG’s sponsoring partner for our firm’s carbon footprint – and as Head of Audit where many clients are increasingly prioritising carbon and sustainability as a business issue – I followed events at the recent Doha climate summit with great interest.

It is fair to say that the achievements of those talks can be described as ‘modest’.  It was good news that the Kyoto Protocol was extended until 2020 – albeit with a smaller circle of countries signed up to it – which also leaves the infrastructure for carbon trading and market-based mechanisms in place.  This is important because I believe that the world is inching towards a global carbon market.

The signals to business are that we are still heading, slowly, towards some sort of global agreement on climate action.  More importantly, this should pave the way for a global price on carbon that will help create a level playing field where the most energy efficiency businesses will be at a distinct advantage compared to their competitors.

Many businesses, governments and other groups are eager for a faster pace, not necessarily to usher in an era where organisations begin to pay for their environmental impacts but more likely to bring some certainty and consistency to an agenda that has for too long been approached piecemeal between countries and sectors.

This makes it more important than ever for responsible businesses to play their part in finding more carbon-efficient ways of doing business – in their own operations and through their supply chains.

With mandatory carbon reporting requirements coming into effect in the UK in 2012 and similar schemes springing up around the world, there is an added incentive – indeed, necessity – for companies to be both managing their footprint down and measuring/quantifying it accurately.

In times of increasing stress on global supply chains, a more efficient business that understands the impacts of climate change and other issues on its value chain stands to be a better investment, and a better partner within our own supply chain.

So for me, the case for managing carbon down is as compelling as ever.  Doha may have been disappointing overall, but that does not mean companies can take it off their agenda.

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