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Government failing to motivate over carbon cuts

Mandatory carbon reporting on the way?

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The UK government is not motivating the industry to reduce its carbon emissions, despite the looming possibility that British companies may need to start to reporting on their carbon emissions by 2012.

So says British accounting firm Access Accounting, after it surveyed 102 people responsible for finance or accountancy. Its 'carbon accounting survey' found that 84 percent of respondents felt that the government needed to do more to motivate businesses to make carbon-reduction initiatives a priority in the workplace. Only 5 percent felt no motivation was needed.

And 62 percent of respondents felt that the Government should incentivise businesses to reduce their carbon footprint by introducing beneficial tax breaks. Over half (57 percent) felt that greater education and public initiatives were required.

Surprisingly, a significant number of respondents (36 percent) felt the need for some tough love, and that the government should impose tougher regulations on carbon emissions, even during the economic downturn.

Last year Access Accounting offered a helping hand for enterprises looking to calculate their carbon footprint, after it incorporated a tool within its accounting package that enabled businesses to assess the carbon footprint of individual users or departments within the company.

There are plenty of carbon footprint software packages around, but nothing embedded in a finance system," said Kevin Misselbrook, customer services director. "Companies that are serious on carbon reduction, often had to invest in very expensive software and skill sets to give carbon footprint figures."

"Our stance is that the information required for carbon reduction normally goes through the finance department," he added. "For example, purchase ledger clerks processing invoices for expenses, travel, electricity etc. All our software does, is ask for a bit more information, and then it produces a carbon footprint for the company."

"We did the survey in the winter of 2008, and the view was surprising, as people wanted the government to do more," he said. "They wanted more sticks in the legislation to impose tougher regulations."

"The UK is one of the forerunners in Europe to commit to reducing carbon," Misselbrook said, commenting on the fact that British Government is committed to cutting greenhouse-gas emissions by 80 percent in the UK by 2050.

"But the target seems to be the largest and biggest consumers of power, and has not been focused on medium sized companies who are the ones that are actually driving consumption," he said.

"The climate change bill went through last year, which makes it highly likely that companies will have to do carbon emissions reporting by 2012," he added. "The thought is that they (the Government) will change the Companies Act, and currently there are 85,000 companies who are submitting company reports to Companies House in the UK."

Misselbrook thinks that these companies who are currently submitting their financial reports to Companies House, will in future have to include figures on their carbon emissions.

"It would be good to see tax break on companies issuing carbon footprint, or doing carbon reporting," he said. "There could tax incentives for early adopters, which would be the same as they have done for doing a company's payroll online. Perhaps there should be a tax incentive there?"

"All business are keeping watching eye on costs at the moment, but measuring carbon is part of cost control," Misselbrook said. "Publishing and maintaining carbon usage figures usually gets buy-in from employees, and delivers efficiencies, in that it creates behavioural changes such as reducing overseas travel to overseas conferences, and making more use of video conferencing etc."

"There are lots of cost savings that companies can achieve when they monitor their carbon usage," he concluded. "After all, unless you monitor, you cannot change."


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