by Robert Kropp
Most corporate respondents to an EcoSecurities survey have undertaken energy efficiency, recycling, and waste management activities, and would purchase carbon offsets to support solar and wind power projects.
SocialFunds.com -- Over 300 global companies, including 31 specialized carbon companies that act as carbon market intermediaries, responded to a survey published recently by EcoSecurities, ClimateBiz, and Baker & McKenzie, which sought to identify corporate trends in carbon management and offsetting. The survey, entitled Carbon Management and Offsetting Trends Survey Results 2009, is the second published by the organizations, and the first since the global economic crisis.
Despite the effects of the crisis, the number of respondents to the survey increased by more than 400% since its predecessor was published in early 2008, with a marked increase in participation of North American companies noted. Although budget concerns were cited by many companies as a motivation for delaying the purchase of carbon offsets, 60% of respondents reported that they measure their organizational carbon footprint, 44% have a defined carbon management strategy, and 32% report having such a plan in development. However, only 54% of North American companies measure their carbon footprint, compared to 92% of Australasian, and 62% of European, respondents.
The primary greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions strategies undertaken by respondents are those that have been described as the low-hanging fruit of such efforts: energy efficiency (cited by 85% of respondents), recycling initiatives (79%), and waste reduction activities (68%).
Companies purchase carbon offsets to support projects such as renewable energy or reforestation. By doing so, companies can avoid, at least temporarily, having to reduce emissions from their own operations, which would be offset by their support for emissions reductions elsewhere. Offsets are measured in tons of CO2 equivalents (CO2e). Emissions reduction projects can be certified through such means as the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). Companies often contract with specialized carbon companies to develop GHG mitigation strategies that include offsetting; EcoSecurities is one such carbon company.
The practice of carbon offsetting has been widely embraced. Following the recent climate change meeting in New York, the UN purchased credits to offset emissions created by travel to and from the meeting. The Waxman-Markey climate change bill, which passed the US House of Representatives in June, includes a provision for offset credits that cover 2 billion tons of emissions annually.
But the practice is not without its detractors. Some have likened it to papal indulgences, because in effect the purchaser of carbon offsets is buying the right to continue polluting. The survey found the highest number of mixed or negative views of offsetting to be in the European Union, where, according to the survey, offsetting first came to prominence. The report notes that "European firms have borne witness to the failures and scandals surrounding offsets in the early days of the market before transparency and greater robustness became stronger requirements."
Overall, the survey found that a majority of respondents have positive views of carbon offsetting. Environmental benefits were cited by 91% of respondents, carbon neutrality and marketing by 89%, and corporate social responsibility (CSR) commitments by 79%. The most highly desired offset project types were solar and wind power, both of which were cited by more than 50% of respondents.