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Report: Big companies seriously off the mark in carbon emissions reduction

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Although businesses are talking a good game in their various corporate social responsibility reports, they will have to seriously accelerate the rate ...

Although businesses are talking a good game in their various corporate social responsibility reports, they will have to seriously accelerate the rate of their carbon emissions reductions in order to meet the goals set out by the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC).

That goal called for a reduction of 80 percent to 95 percent by 2050 -- or risk the impact of dramatic climate change.

If you do the math, that requires an annual reduction of about 3.9 percent. But based on the latest reports from 100 large companies participating in the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), the average reduction is only 1.9 percent per year. (About 2,500 business now report their efforts through the organization.)

CDP has released a rather scary, yet thoughtful, report analyzing these and other data called "The Carbon Chasm." The report is a refreshingly easy read, and here's what else I picked up:

  • Fully 27 percent of the Global 100 companies don't have any reduction target in mind. Conversely, that means that almost three-quarters DO have a target.
  • Approximately 84 percent of those with current targets will see those expire around 2012 (or beforehand). The report authors speculate that this is because that's when the Kyoto Protocol will expire. The next possibility for another global agreement will come in December 2009, during a meeting in Copenhagen. Here's more information on that. So, what are you just going to stop reducing because the government (I should say governments) can't get its act together?
  • European companies have been the most diligent about setting reduction targets, followed by U.S. companies and then those from Asia.
  • 100 percent of all electric utilities reporting to CDP have set targets.

You can comb through specific data about these 10 companies: Cisco, Coca-Cola, GlaxoSmithKline, IBM, L'Oreal, Microsoft, Nokia, PepsiCo UK, RWE, Siemens, Tesco and Wells Fargo. Plus the report includes all sorts of juicy reduction target stat charts so you can compare your company with rivals.

Here's a link to the report, so you can gauge how your own company is doing.

Here are three takeaways for smart executives wondering where their own company stands.

1. Check and see whether or not you have expressed a specific reduction target. No goal, no action. Isn't that what you tell your staff?

2. Make sure you're working together a deadline. (See snide comment above.)

3. Pressure your local, state and federal government to provide a framework for reduction.

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Heather Clancy

Section Editor

Heather Clancy has written for United Press International, ZDNet, Entrepreneur, Fortune Small Business, the International Herald Tribune and the New York Times. She holds a degree from McGill University. She is based in New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure