Why we should welcome mandatory reporting of carbon emissions in the UK

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Anne-Sophie Blin
EMEA Upstream Sustainability Services

I attended a Defra consultation workshop a year ago on the potential introduction of mandatory carbon reduction in the UK and worked on Jones Lang LaSalle’s response to the UK government’s consultation. At the time, I had some doubts that this legislation would ever come about: it was being discussed in a very uncertain economic climate when the UKgovernment was trying to reduce administrative burdens on companies and it seemed that environmental issues had fallen off the political agenda momentarily.

A year later, it sounds like the UKgovernment has recognised the need to act on this issue and introduced new legislation for an estimated 2,500 publicly listed companies with a view to potentially extending this to large non-listed companies in 2015.

To me, this is great news for three reasons:

  1. This policy was strongly backed by most publicly listed companies in theUK. It is a very good example of how private sector “lobbying” is able to drive the policy agenda in a way that benefits society as well as their own interests. Given the influence of the business community on policy development, it is important that companies’ public relations strategies are consistent with their corporate commitments around sustainability.
  2. Even in a very uncertain economic climate, the costs of carbon reporting were not perceived to be more significant that the benefits associated with introducing this piece of legislation. This is in part linked to the fact that a lot of companies are actually already doing it voluntarily so it is in line with their existing commitments (most of our clients have not dropped their sustainability commitments in spite of the recessionary climate). There will be some questions around how this dovetails with CRC reporting – as this could lead to a doubling up of work in this area. But this announcement provides some much needed additional certainty for companies to make decisions in the area of carbon management and reporting.
  3. This announcement is an indication about where future leadership may come from in the sustainability agenda. The lack of international agreement atRio20 has put a halt to international negotiations on climate change. This does not mean that all national leadership is non-existing. But future leadership on climate change will probably take a different shape. For instance, investors potentially hold a lot of power as they can help to raise the bar of expectations for the companies in which they invest. In doing so, they can drive the policy agenda…

So, all in all, some good news for UK companies and the environment, which I am sure our clients will welcome.

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