Firms looking to boost their standing in the government's Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) league table will have a wider range of options to choose from after the Environment Agency yesterday extended the list of standards that qualify as so-called Early Action Metrics under the scheme.
Early Action Metrics are designed to recognise those organisations that have already taken measures to improve their energy efficiency and, as a result, might find it harder to deliver continued percentage cuts in their energy use. Under the rules of the CRC, the Environment Agency takes compliance with Early Action Metrics into account when compiling the league tables detailing participants' energy performance, giving a higher rating to organisations that have already taken measures to enhance their efficiency.
To qualify for an Early Action Metric, organisations are required to voluntarily install automated meter-reading equipment and comply with an approved standard certifying that they have implemented carbon management policies and delivered cuts in emissions.
Initially, the only standard that qualified as an Early Action Metric was the Carbon Trust Standard, which requires firms to demonstrate that they have delivered year-on-year emission reductions.
However, the Carbon Trust Standard's position as the only approved standard prompted protests in some quarters that the government-backed company could dominate what promises to be a lucrative market and, as a result, the Environment Agency has approved a number of rival standards as Early Action Metrics over the past few months.
New carbon management standards from CEMARS and BSI Kitemark have already been approved, while the Environment Agency announced yesterday that the recently launched Carbon Saver Standard has also qualified as an Early Action Metric.
Glenn Wilkinson, managing director of Carbon Saver, welcomed the decision, arguing that it meant organisations now had a "real choice" when looking at the market for approved carbon accreditation schemes.
Andrew Hitchings, CRC project executive at the Environment Agency, urged organisations that have taken steps to improve their energy efficiency in recent years to obtain an approved standard. "The Carbon Trust Standard and equivalent schemes allow organisations who are leading the way in environmental management to be rewarded for their early action," he said. "CRC is an opportunity for organisations to show what they have already achieved in reducing emissions through early action and provides an incentive to achieve the further reductions which are necessary in the future."
The news comes as the Carbon Trust yesterday released the results of a survey of 200 finance directors showing that nearly three quarters work for firms that do not currently measure their carbon footprint.
The survey found that 72 per cent of respondents believe businesses will eventually be legally required to measure their carbon footprint, while 76 per cent reckon they will be made to pay for the carbon they emit.
However, just under half of respondents have a target for reducing carbon emissions, while a further 16 per cent were unsure if their employer had a carbon target or not.
"The debate about whether or not carbon footprinting and payment will become mandatory for business appears to be over as far as finance heads are concerned, " said Harry Morrison, general manager of the Carbon Trust Standard. "Yet only a minority have taken action so far and these early movers have a clear advantage. Building carbon management into the DNA of the business now not only ensures preparedness for future compliance requirements, but also brings immediate cost and efficiency benefits and a competitive edge."