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Three-Fourths of U.K. Companies Don’t Measure Carbon Output

Aug. 18 (Bloomberg) -- Almost three-quarters of U.K. companies have yet to measure their carbon footprints, the government’s Carbon Trust said.

Some 26 percent of companies currently measure greenhouse gas output, with 38 percent planning to begin within five years, the trust said today in a survey of 200 finance directors at firms employing more than 500 people.

With new emissions laws coming in, the task of auditing carbon in a company is increasingly falling onto finance departments, said Harry Morrison, general manager of the Carbon Trust Standard Co., which certifies the environmental performance of corporations.

“Finance heads are getting much more involved in carbon than they have previously,” Morrison said yesterday in a meeting with reporters and company officials to discuss the survey results. “In many companies, the finance team in their internal audit function are best placed to have a robust view of carbon and environmental data than the energy and climate teams may have done in the past.”

British companies have until Sept. 30 to register for a government program called the Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency Scheme, or CRC. It requires the country’s biggest energy users to report their emissions and trade permits to release carbon dioxide. A third of the estimated 20,000 companies that need to sign up may miss the deadline and face fines, the consultant WSP Environment & Energy said last month.

“A lot of finance directors aren’t up to speed in this, and they don’t think that it’s relevant,” said Rachel Sinha, sustainability manager at the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales. She said the institute is working to incorporate carbon accounting into accountancy qualifications.

Consultants Boon

The CRC will cover about 5,000 companies, universities and local councils. It will redistribute proceeds among the participants according to their emissions-cutting performance. Another 15,000 firms will have to register, while not taking part. The plan has proven a “boon” for consultants, said Alex Flach, construction and maintenance director at Whitbread Plc, which operates hotels, pubs and cafes around the country.

Ben Wielgus, a sustainability manager at the consultant KPMG LLP, said his team has 10 new people joining over the next three months to cover the CRC and broader issues surrounding climate change. He also said KPMG has met with more than 300 company boards to explain the government program.

“All of the big four are increasing their sustainability departments quite considerably,” Wielgus said, referring to the accounting firms KPMG, Ernst & Young, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The Carbon Trust’s survey showed that 72 percent of finance chiefs expect carbon reporting to become mandatory for all U.K. businesses at some point, and 76 percent expect all firms will have to pay a price for emitting carbon dioxide.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Morales in London at amorales2@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reed Landberg at landberg@bloomberg.net.

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