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Top 50 +50 analysis: The environment

The top firms may have shown signs of improvement in reducing their carbon footprint but still have a long way to go

FIRMS HAVE TAKEN heed of the government’s drive to reduce carbon emissions, according to the latest Top 50+50 survey.

Around 60% of the top firms claim they are taking environmental concerns seriously and have implemented a carbon reduction policy.

However, there are some that continue to lag behind the pack. The top 16 firms all have an environmental policy but, below them green issues take a back seat. Out of the Top 50, ten firms said they had no reduction initiative and ten declined to answer the question altogether.

Although environmental activists could argue that all the firms should have a reduction plan, the latest figures are an improvement on previous years. Just three years ago less than half claimed to have company protocols on reducing their carbon footprint.

Large firms such as UHY, MacIntyre Hudson and Chantrey Vellacott were among the firms that admitted they did not have a company wide policy. However, the likes of Begbies Traynor, Moore Stephens and Baker Tilly were not so forthcoming, opting to leave the industry guessing on where they stand on carbon reduction.

Oddly, Scott Moncrieff did not offer an answer as to whether or not it had a reduction policy, but highlighted that it provided CSR/environmental advice to clients.

A driving force behind the overall increase in disclosure could be the government’s Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) [legislation]. It forces organisations, that spend more than £500,000 annually on energy to report and pay for energy related emissions.

Previously, revenues generated from this scheme were to be pumped back into it. However, earlier this year the government decided that it would run like a green tax, and funds would go to the public purse.

Given this change of heart by the government, it was unsurprising to see the top firms bragging about their environmental credentials. However, some firms did go above and beyond expectations.

PwC has led the way with one of its initiatives to create the country’s most environmentally friendly building in London Bridge. It is, so far, the only building in the UK to achieve an “outstanding” accreditation from the international environmental building assessment organisation BREEAM.

Some of the buildings energy requirements come from used chip oil, with the refinery just doors away from the PwC building. The firm also has zero tolerance for sending waste to landfill. It either recycles paper into hand towels, plastic into pens and burns waste to be used as energy, letting nothing go to…waste.

However, it is not alone in creating a carbon friendly building. Prior to the unveiling of PwC’s London Bridge office, KPMG had created its own Zen-like building with grass roofs, solar panels and recycled water galore.

It seems as though competition is good for the environment.

Other firms have also showed off their green credentials: Francis Clark has a BREEAM accreditation; Johnston Carmichael has an in-house environment day for staff to make their suggestions on environmental improvements; HW Fisher is in the midst of its second annual carbon audit; and Cooper Parry uses motion detection lighting – to name a few initiatives. The majority of the other firms are becoming paperless offices, sourcing environmentally friendly energy and recycling.

However, this attitude did not filter down quite so strongly to the +50 firms. Is the bottom half of the table lagging behind the government drive to reduce carbon emissisons by 20% by 2020? It’s certainly possible, as just 15 of the +50 firms have an environmental policy, with a whopping 27 admitting they don’t.

However, the minority that are taking carbon reduction seriously show encouraging signs of forward thinking.

Ellacotts has called on its auditing expertise to investigate its carbon usage and is investigating its suppliers’ environmental impact. Other firms to implement policies include Broomfield & Alexander, which won an award for the reduction targets it achieved and set out; Harris Lipman use video conferencing; Thomas Westcott has a partner dedicated to the issue; and Bishop Fleming is in the midst of creating an environmental management system.

Although the Top 50 +50 firms have come a long way, just fewer than half have confirmed they have a carbon reduction policy.

Environmental issues are showing no signs of diminishing and as the government seeks new ways to increase revenues through environmental taxes, such as the CRC, it makes sense to count the carbon and reduce its cost.



For full coverage of our 2011 Top 50 +50 survey and a detailed breakdown

of the figures, download our report in PDF format.



View the animated graph of the rise and fall of the largest firms in the country dating back from 1998.

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