Ethical Performance
inside intelligence for responsible business


Vast majority of UK firms fall short on carbon aims

January 2010

Just one in five British brands are meeting the government’s carbon reduction targets.

New research covering 600 of the UK’s largest brands shows that only 121 are reducing emissions and have goals in line with the UK government’s target of a 34 per cent reduction by 2020 on 1990 levels.

More than 400 big brands, meanwhile, are increasing emissions, have no targets on emissions or targets lower than the UK government’s guideline, or simply do not publish data.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh Business School found no carbon emissions information for 250 brands, no public targets for 320, and that half of those brands reporting data had actually increased their emissions during 2008.

Tesco, T-Mobile, Dell and BMW were all identified as ‘Brand Emissions Leaders’ but other big names were found to be falling short. Google, Burger King and Amazon, for example, publish no carbon emissions data at all, while Porsche and McDonalds have no targets in place. Other brands failing to report include Channel 4, Dyson, the social networking site Facebook and supermarket chain Iceland.

While the Brand Emissions survey found some firms had reduced their emissions intensity (carbon units relative to their turnover), many are producing more carbon year on year, despite the government’s goal of a 1.7 per cent annual reduction. Asda, BT, BP, EDF Energy, Nokia, and hundreds more are in this category.

The highest performing sectors were pharmaceuticals, publishing, food retail and telecommunications, which all scored well on emissions reductions, reduction targets and emissions reporting.  Among the weakest sectors were hotels and retail. In the latter sector only the building materials retailer Jewson registered a reduction out of more than 50 brands.

The research director of the project, Craig Mackenzie, who is director of the Carbon Benchmarking Project at Edinburgh University, said: ‘100 or so leading brands show just how much can be done if you set your mind to it. But to keep global temperatures within the 2°C “safe” zone, we need all brands to demonstrate the same level of ambition and achievement as these leaders.’

The Brand Emissions ranking was commissioned from Edinburgh University by Marketing Magazine, which intends to run it each year, highlighting companies that are doing too little.  

However, Katie Webber, director of Business in the Community’s Mayday campaign, which urges firms to improve their performance on climate change, said there was a danger of becoming too negative.

‘Instead of pointing the finger... we need to celebrate the leading action that has already been taken in the UK, and empower and encourage more of the same,’  she said.

University of Edinburgh | UK & NI Ireland | Climate change

Further Information
3BL Media News
Sign up for Free e-news
Report Alerts
Job Vacancies
Events Updates
Best Practice Newsletter