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Firms jump on the green bandwagon

Green issues are no longer the preserve of sandal-wearing activists. They have entered the mainstream business world and galloped up the boardroom agenda. At the same time, booming markets for trading carbon credits, effectively created by the Kyoto treaty in 1997, have attracted scores of investors focusing on green- energy projects.

Responding to climate change is giving companies the chance to look good and make money, reports Grant Ringshaw

IT is an environmentalist’s dream. A high-tech store where tills are powered by wind turbines, the in-house bakery is fired by solar power and every part of the building is made from recycled materials. However, this is not a vision, but the reality of a supermarket that Tesco will open in Wick in Scotland in two months.

Tesco is investing 100m in environmental technologies in a bid to halve the amount of energy it uses by 2010, compared with 2000 levels.

Tesco’s plan is one of the boldest attempts to address a huge issue facing businesses — how to become greener.

Green issues are no longer the preserve of sandal-wearing activists. They have entered the mainstream business world and galloped up the boardroom agenda. At the same time, booming markets for trading carbon credits, effectively created by the Kyoto treaty in 1997, have attracted scores of investors focusing on green- energy projects.

Some big companies have already taken bold steps. Last year, HSBC became the world’s first bank to become “carbon neutral”. For a company to be “carbon-neutral”, its output of carbon... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Responding to climate change is giving companies the chance to look good and make money, reports Grant Ringshaw

IT is an environmentalist’s dream. A high-tech store where tills are powered by wind turbines, the in-house bakery is fired by solar power and every part of the building is made from recycled materials. However, this is not a vision, but the reality of a supermarket that Tesco will open in Wick in Scotland in two months.

Tesco is investing £100m in environmental technologies in a bid to halve the amount of energy it uses by 2010, compared with 2000 levels.

Tesco’s plan is one of the boldest attempts to address a huge issue facing businesses — how to become greener.

Green issues are no longer the preserve of sandal-wearing activists. They have entered the mainstream business world and galloped up the boardroom agenda. At the same time, booming markets for trading carbon credits, effectively created by the Kyoto treaty in 1997, have attracted scores of investors focusing on green- energy projects.

Some big companies have already taken bold steps. Last year, HSBC became the world’s first bank to become “carbon neutral”. For a company to be “carbon-neutral”, its output of carbon dioxide, usually generated by its energy consumption, must be reduced.

Businesses can also “offset” their use of energy by investing in “clean energy” or environmental projects that reduce emissions outside the company. Traditionally this has included planting trees or investing in wind farms. For HSBC, becoming carbon neutral involved moving to a green electricity supplier and introducing a recycling scheme that had the effect of confiscating all personal bins in its Canary Wharf headquarters.

“We think that carbon neutrality should be high on any corporation’s list of priorities,” said HSBC. “Our leadership is convinced that humanity is having an impact on climate change and it could be extremely damaging in the long term. We are an organisation that was founded in 1865 and we want to be around in 2865 — we have a long-term view.”

HSBC is not alone. In June BSkyB announced it, too, would turn carbon neutral, offsetting its carbon emissions and taking other measures, including switching its taxi account to a firm that uses hybrid vehicles.

Man Group, the world’s largest hedge-fund manager led by Stanley Fink, the chief executive who is known to be passionate about green issues, has also unveiled carbon neutral plans.

But all this activity is not just about companies becoming more green; businesses have realised that environmental politics can offer huge commercial opportunities.

Two years ago Sir Richard Branson was intensely worried about the rising price of fuel — understandably, given his interests in airlines and railways.

“It had tripled, and we wanted to know why,” he said.

An investigation by Virgin quickly pinpointed the main reason: a lack of refining capacity. Branson announced plans to invest in a refinery, and started persuading other investors to get involved.

But the pursuit was to lead Branson in an entirely different direction. After meeting Ted Turner, one of America’s leading environmental business evangelists, he has decided instead to push his business empire into environmentally-friendly investments, in particular biofuels, as revealed by The Sunday Times last week.

He is not alone. Entrepreneur Vincent Tchenguiz last week confirmed that his Consensus Business Group would join an initiative launched by the government of oil-rich Abu Dhabi. The $250m (£133m) Masdar fund is expected to attract environmental-technology companies to the Gulf state.

And scores of other investors are rushing to go green. Last week Climate Change Capital, which was co-founded by James Cameron, one of the chief negotiators of the Kyoto protocol, announced it has raised almost $1 billion to invest in clean-energy projects and in trading carbon-emissions credits. Only the World Bank has raised more money to invest in the low-carbon economy.

“This is proof that the green economy has arrived and that the world realises that combating global warming is not only a necessity, but an opportunity,” said Cameron.

For many, eco-capitalism is the new big thing. In less than seven years, funds investing in the carbon markets have gone from nothing to $6 billion.

Meanwhile, trading in carbon-emissions contracts has rocketed from £250m in 2004 to £8 billion in the first six months of this year, according to Point Carbon, an analyst.

Meanwhile, other carbon markets have sprung up, including the Chicago Climate Exchange, a voluntary market with 140 members, including the computer giant IBM, American Electric Power and carmaker Ford. “The Chicago exchange is in some ways the acid test — it shows that companies are taking the issue seriously like never before,” said Neil Eckert, chairman of Trading Emissions, a company that invests in clean-energy projects and trades carbon credits.

Certainly, governments face big challenges in combating climate change. A far-reaching report last week by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change at the University of Manchester warned that the British government must draw up a comprehensive action plan within four years or face the prospect of having to take far more drastic action in the future.

According to the report, commissioned by Friends of the Earth and Co-operative Bank, Britain needs to cut carbon- dioxide emissions by 70% over the next 30 years. The target is higher than the government target of a 60% reduction by 2050.

Researchers set a “carbon budget” for Britain to produce no more than 4.5 billion tonnes by 2050. However, based on current levels this budget could be used up as soon as 2028.


Source: http://www.timesonline.co.u...

SEP 17 2006
https://www.windaction.org/posts/4649-firms-jump-on-the-green-bandwagon
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