Business wants Government to map out future of enviro-policy

The corporate call for a clear and consistent framework for environmental policy to enable companies to plan ahead with a greater degree of certainty about what the future holds has been repeated by Price Waterhouse Coopers.

The multinational corporate service provider quizzed 151 companies following the publication of the Government's white paper on climate change to determine the private sector's take on how environmental policy was affecting the way they do business.

In a nutshell the subsequent report, Saving the Planet - can tax and regulation help?, says that the appetite for environmentally-friendly business practices has never been higher but companies want Government to spell out its intentions longer term and would like to see less contradictory messages from different departments and agencies.

The report says that UK business recognises it has a responsibility to tackle climate change but that the current tax and regulation system does not inspire companies to make fundamental changes to their corporate behaviour.

"We believe that there is an urgent requirement for a much clearer policy framework to help business respond to the challenge of climate change," said Glyn Barker, managing partner of PWC.

"While it may be surprising to find businesses appearing to welcome further regulation, corporate leaders recognise that customer and investor pressure is not enough to change their environmental behaviour fast enough given the urgency and scale of action required.

"Competitive businesses want a level playing field, and they want it to be green."
Almost all (97%) of the companies interviewed said they expected to make changes to the way they operate over the coming two or three years as a direct result of climate change and over two thirds (71%) said global warming and other environmental issues are already influencing corporate behaviour.

The main drivers behind green behaviour still appear to be hard-nosed business decisions rather than a desire to appear to be doing the right thing.

Cost savings, maintaining a competitive advantage and meeting the demands of customers were seen as the principle reasons to go green with attracting and retaining staff at the bottom of the list.

Two thirds of the companies said they would welcome a tax system that gave them an incentive to go carbon neutral.

The CBI said the report shows business is serious about climate change.

"Business has been at the heart of the campaign to tackle climate change for some time and the survey shows firms are voluntarily finding innovative new ways to meet the challenge head-on," said Michael Roberts, the group's director of business environment.

"It is vital that the government takes care to achieve the right mix of carrot and stick when it comes to using taxation and regulation to influence firms to go green.

"Both can play a role but their deployment must be environmentally effective, not jeopardise economic competitiveness nor simply act as a source of cash for the government. Very importantly, they must give firms a straightforward, long-term framework to make green decisions in."

Sam Bond



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