Seventy Percent of Corporations Plan to Spend More on Climate Change, According to Survey

Even as climate policy stalls in the US and elsewhere, 70 percent of corporate executives globally plan to increase spending on climate change intiatives between 2010 and 2012, according to a new survey (PDF) by accountancy Ernst & Young LLP.

The international survey, which polled 300 executives at companies with revenues of $1 billion or more, indicates the degree to which concerns about climate change have percolated into corporate culture.

“Corporate leaders are not letting the lack of global standards and regulations slow their climate change investments” said Steve Starbuck, Americas Climate Change and Sustainability Services Leader at Ernst & Young. “Other market drivers, such as equity analysts’ growing interest in climate change performance, are prompting a further need to act and be more transparent.”

Two thirds of respondents said their company had instituted a climate change program, with a further 16 percent planning to do so in the near future. Ninety percent said climate change policy is dictated by C-suite executives or board members.

Nearly 50 percent said their company planned to spend between .5 and 5 percent of revenue annually on climate change initiatives. The survey report points out that at a company with $1 billion in revenue, that amounts to $5-50 million a year. Executives reported that energy costs, consumer sentiment and stakeholder expectations are drivers for implementing climate change initiatives at their firms.

As for what companies plan to spend on, energy efficiency is at the top of the list. Eighty-two percent plan to invest in energy efficiency in the next year. Energy efficiency is not exclusively a global warming issue, of course. But 65 percent also plan to invest in new products or services because of climate change, and 63 percent transparency in corporate reporting of greenhouse gas emissions.

Thirty-six percent of respondents said they were “working directly with our suppliers and expect them to reduce their carbon footprint.”

The survey, titled “Action Amid Uncertainty: The Business Response to Climate Change,” comes as chances for a comprehensive climate and energy bill in Congress are slim (despite — or perhaps because of — the Gulf spill). Australians also recently shelved plans for a cap-and-trade system there. In the UK, global warming programs have been cut due to fiscal belt-tightening.

BC (Ben) Upham is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. He has written for the New York Times, and was a writer and editor for News Communications, Inc., a local paper consortium serving Manhattan. When he's not blogging on green issues -- and especially renewable energy -- he's hiking in the Angeles Mountains or hanging out at El Matador.