From: Sinead Carew and Gerard Wynn, Reuters
Published September 19, 2006 12:00 AM

Minority of FT 500 Firms Shun Climate Change Survey

NEW YORK/LONDON — Some of the world's top companies did not respond to a survey about how they were dealing with climate change issues such as greenhouse gas emissions, the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) said Monday.


Seventy-two percent of the companies in the FT 500 index, included in the survey group, responded, up from 71 percent in 2005. Among the big name no-shows were Google Inc., Altria Group Inc., XTO Energy Inc. and French food group Danone.


More than 2,100 companies were surveyed, according to the CDP.


The project was backed by 225 investors with assets of more than $31 trillion who want to bet on companies that are planning ahead to face the effects of climate change.


Matthew Kiernan, chief executive of Innovest Strategic Value Advisors, which wrote the survey, said it appeared that the number of companies most inclined to respond had peaked. The survey, in its fourth year, was conducted by the CDP.


Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, speaking in New York at a presentation of the results, urged investors to look to long term returns from companies spending on emission reduction instead of focusing on short term costs.


"The majority of the investment community acts in such a way that it gives the impression the long term doesn't matter," said Gore. He said corporate attitudes toward environmental strategies would not change if investors kept a narrow focus on quarterly reports.


Lord Adair Turner, a member of the International Climate Taskforce, said at the event that fears about the cost of greenhouse gas emission reductions have been exaggerated.


RESPONSE THRESHOLD


Kiernan said he believes that companies that have ignored the survey would respond once they realized the commercial implications of having emission strategies.


"My own belief is the actual performance of the investment world will drag the last ones in," he said.


This year, 58 percent of U.S. companies surveyed responded, up from 42 percent in 2005. First time U.S. respondents included American Express Co. Boeing Co., Home Depot Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc.


Web search leader Google was not in the FT 500 during past surveys. Its rival Yahoo Inc. responded last year but not this year, the CDP said.


Google, Yahoo, Danone, Altria and oil and gas company XTO were not immediately available for comment.


Fewer than half of the companies said they had implemented programs to cut greenhouse gas emissions. And, the CDP said, fewer companies this year felt that climate change threatened their business.


The report said that fewer than half of the FT 500 companies provided greenhouse gas emissions data, compared to more than half in the last survey.


International bank HSBC was "best in class" in the banking sector in the report. HSBC spent $750,000 in the last three months of 2005 to achieve its goal of being carbon neutral. This figure compared with record 2005 profits before tax of $21 billion.


CDP coordinator Paul Dickinson said the next step for the project would be to push for better carbon accounting such as systematic counting of emissions, and to roll out the survey into China, Mexico, India and Russia. (Additional reporting by Stuart Penson in London)


Source: Reuters


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