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Gore Speaks On Climate Change in Hong Kong

by Mary Swire, for, Hong Kong

10 August 2007

One time US Vice President Al Gore spoke yesterday in Hong Kong on the linkages between climate change, ethics and sustainability to an audience of leading government officials, business executives, leaders of the accountancy profession and senior ACCA members from Hong Kong SAR, Mainland China and across the Asia Pacific Region.

The event took place in Hong Kong’s Conrad Hotel and was the highlight of a series of global events organised by ACCA throughout 2007 which focus on professionalism and ethics. To coincide with the event, ACCA has launching a study which assesses how leading companies are currently reporting on climate change, based on research and discussion by a group of top experts in the field.

Allen Blewitt, ACCA Chief Executive, who spoke on the same platform as Vice President Gore, said: “We are delighted that Vice President Gore has agreed to speak at our event. We have been campaigning for over 15 years for organisations to measure and manage their environmental impacts and activities, and to have secured Vice President Gore, the world’s leading environmental champion, to speak to our members reflects our commitment to these issues. The fact that the event is a sell-out, with so many corporate tables being booked, shows that businesses want to address these challenges”.

Allen Blewitt added: “ACCA is publishing a report which will add to the debate on how business should be measuring its own impact on climate change. We believe bringing transparency and clarity to this issue can lead inexorably to opportunities for real improvements in environmental performance. The financial markets will be able to assess risks to long-term shareholder value and so will be able to allocate more effectively their vast resources in ways that mitigate the threats of global climate change. So accountants can be at the vanguard of fundamental changes in corporate performance, as companies which lead the way in this area will be seen as professional and ethical.”

The report, ‘Improving Climate Change Reporting’ by ACCA and the FTSE Group assesses the performances of 42 UK companies which are renowned as leading environmental reporters. Businesses, especially energy-intensive companies, are now expected to disclose how they are mitigating their contributions to climate change in terms of policies, targets, product innovation, risk management and initiatives to reduce gas emissions.

Yet the results of the research were mixed. Some key findings included:

  • While 80% of the companies surveyed include a climate change policy statement, only 25% of those with a high product impact include a product climate change policy, with only 7% having a named senior person responsible for this.
  • While 57% disclosed short– or medium-term targets for carbon emissions, only 43% provided long-term (over 5 years) targets while, disappointingly, no organisation disclosed any product targets.
  • More encouragingly, 89% provided some form of carbon data in their reporting. Over half had this verified independently.

Roger Adams, ACCA Executive Director – Technical, said: “The report does not make entirely comfortable reading. The companies we analysed included many of the leading sustainability and CSR (Corporate & Social Responsibility) reporters but while particular issues were handled well, no single company was found to be reporting evenly across all the key climate change issues – especially those relating to product impacts and initiatives to reduce carbon emissions. And reporting, even at this patchy level, is not widely practised or monitored.”

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