It’s now up to businesses to take lead in the fight against global warming

A leading environmental consultancy has warned the latest political failure to agree on a roadmap to carbon emissions reduction means it is now up to businesses and sub-national organisations to take more pro-active responsibility for protecting the environment.

Richard Laverick, director of corporate responsibility at environmental consultancy ADAS, said the latest impasse meant the ‘top down’ approach where international legislation drives carbon reduction must be mitigated with greater responsibility at a localised level.

There is a real risk that the continued inability to secure political agreement could be translated by business leaders as meaning carbon reduction and sustainability is no longer the priority it once was,” he said.

This is certainly not the case. Not only are domestic carbon reduction targets still in place, but now more than ever businesses need to seize the initiative and work towards a sustainable future.

We cannot wait for political leadership on emissions reduction.

Any misconception that targets can be delayed could undo much of the progress already made. It could put sustainable development implemented by companies, back by ten years and we don’t have that time to spare.

The majority of businesses have been slow to set themselves challenging emission reduction targets and the failure at Copenhagen will do nothing to encourage more radical efforts.

The UK has committed itself to reducing carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2050 and obtaining 15 per cent of its energy requirement from renewable sources like wind and solar power by 2020.

These targets are still very much in place and businesses have to play their part in helping to achieve them – the government urgently needs to get this message out there in the aftermath of Copenhagen or else the momentum built up could be lost.

He said much of the progress to improve environmental performance had been made voluntarily through corporate social responsibility programmes.

Well thought out CSR policies -implemented with conviction, have been highly effective at driving businesses towards reduced environmental impact and more sustainable operating practices.

It is imperative that this aspect of business activity is not undermined.

Many organisations underestimate the power and innovative potential of their own staff, he said. The key to real success and lasting transformation is to harness the energy and creative abilities within organisations.

ADAS has set itself tough targets to curb its greenhouse gas emissions.

During 2010 it will reduce CO2 emissions from business-related travel by 10 per cent and restrict its buildings’ energy consumption also by ten percent relative to 2009.

Furthermore, ADAS will be seeking ISO14064 verification in 2010, a stringent review of reporting processes.

As a business we’ve taken our own environmental commitment very seriously. The targets we’ve set are ambitious, clear and measurable.

This is only the beginning though – sustainability is a continuous process and as we achieve one set of targets we will see how we can improve efficiency further.

The key to success is transforming service delivery, adapting to a new operating environment based on low carbon options.

With or without political agreement, reducing emissions is still absolutely crucial, so it’s important that as a country we remain focused on a two degree cap for global warming.

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie