Still sceptical about climate change

Feb 26 2008 by Nic Paton Print This Article

The gap between the attitudes of U.S, UK and European businesses leaders towards climate change is as large as ever, according to new research.

While globally some four out of 10 firms cite concern for the planet as their main motivation for implementing corporate social responsibility policies, just 21 per cent of U.S businesses say they are motivated to save the planet, research by financial advisers Grant Thornton has suggested.

But before British and European firms get too smug, it's worth noting that they, too, are below the global average, at 30 per cent and 33 per cent respectively.

Of much more importance for UK firms is the need to be seen as an employer of choice, with more than half saying they are influenced to act by a desire to attract or retain staff.

Reducing costs is another key driver, cited by 52 per cent of the UK businesses polled, while the fear of being thought of as environmental or ethical vandals by the general public was a key motivator for a further 48 per cent.

And, despite much noise about CSR within the corridors of Whitehall and other European governments, government pressure is definitely not a strong influencing factor, with just over a fifth saying such pressure would cause them to act.

The one exception has been tough new waste disposal rules for UK businesses, introduced last autumn, that mean firms can now be fined heavily if they fail to treat their waste properly, said Grant Thornton.

Alysoun Stewart, head of entrepreneurial advisory at the company, said the U.S still had a long way to go.

"Although the U.S government has pledged its commitment to confronting global climate change, this attitude doesn't seem to have filtered through to U.S businesses yet," she stressed.

"As the world's biggest emitter of carbon dioxide, the U.S is going to have to find a way to get this message across more effectively," she added.

The survey comes just days after a poll by accountancy firm KPMG concluded that eight out of 10 UK business executives had no strategy in place at all about how to deal with climate change, despite agreeing it was now a business priority.