Climate group sees progress in U.S. board rooms

NEW YORK, Sept 11 Wed Sep 12, 2012 4:45am IST

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NEW YORK, Sept 11 (Reuters) - An organization promoting the reduction of greenhouse gases said its annual survey showed big U.S.-listed companies making progress in disclosure and in their carbon emission reduction goals, even as lawmakers hesitate to regulate.

The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) said its 2012 survey showed a growing number of top-tier executives and company boards of the 500 top publicly traded U.S. companies were directly overseeing their firms' climate change strategies.

Of the S&P 500, 338 firms participated in this year's survey by the CDP, which provides a system for companies and cities to measure and disclose environmental information.

Companies that ranked highly for their climate disclosures in the CDP's index were Microsoft Corp, United Parcel Service, Hess Corp, Pepco Holdings and Sempra Energy Utilities.

The results "highlight a tipping point" in actions taken by corporate boardrooms to address the physical risks of climate change in their overall business goals "despite a lack of comprehensive regulatory requirements," according to the survey report co-written by CDP and professional services firm PwC.

The report comes just a day after the National Climate Data Center said the first eight months of 2012 have been the warmest of any year on record in the United States.

Eighty-one percent of reporting companies identified physical risk from climate change, with 37 percent considering the risks "a real and present danger" - up from 10 percent in 2010.

Of the survey's respondents, 92 percent reported that their company's board or high-level executive had oversight over climate strategies, up six percentage points from 2011.

Eighty-three percent of those respondents said that climate change had been factored into corporate risk management strategies compared to 75 percent (254) the previous year.

Doug Kangos, partner at PwC's Sustainable Business Solutions and an author of the annual CDP reports, said this confirms that the climate issue has transformed from being a company marketing issue to a major boardroom issue.

"Companies have finally said this is more than just an ancillary issue that a few of my marketing people want to focus on. They have acknowledged that this is real for my business," Kangos told Reuters in an interview.

He said that unlike Congress, where there is ambivalence or skepticism over the need to regulate carbon, companies have stepped in to address the issue regardless of whether they believe humans cause climate change because it poses major financial risks.

"Particularly in this country, the private sector doesn't sit around and wait for government," he said.

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