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Carbon progress?

Yohan Hill

Though the exact details are yet to be finalised, mandatory carbon reporting looks set to become a reality for largeUKbusinesses.

But carbon is a tricky subject. To give confidence in the numbers, a credible stamp of approval, such as an independent assurance statement, is often valued by the analysts and investors who rely on those numbers, and the companies that look to measure, manage and report them. As such, the Carbon Trust’s recent launch of their own verification standard seems a logical and desirable step forward. Or is it?

For companies seeking to comply with the bare minimum of the law, then of course, such a move makes sense. However, more progressive companies already recognise that carbon is only part of the story. From a sustainability point of view, broader metrics including those around water use, waste materials and a range of other environmental impacts, which vary according to industry, are equally important. For those companies, it hardly makes sense to verify carbon in isolation of everything else.

So how do we square the circle? Carbon verification may be good for compliance, but it’s a somewhat limited perspective to the challenges facing companies and, indeed, those facing wider society. Yes, it will help company’s meet a legal standard credibly, but it won’t help companies address their sustainability challenges more holistically or strategically. Let’s not take a step back while desiring to move forward. Stand-alone carbon verification may tell us your CO2 numbers are correct, but what does it then say about your wider approach to sustainability reporting or your overall sustainability strategy?

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