Canadian firms show leadership in climate change management, Conference Board says

Thursday October 07, 2010
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Many of Canada's large, publicly traded companies have well-developed strategies and practices to manage climate change. Overall, however, Canadian companies lag on setting emissions-reduction targets and obtaining third-party verification of their actions when compared to firms in other countries, according to the results from the 2010 Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), released recently by The Conference Board of Canada. The annual CDP information request asks 4,700 of the largest companies in the world - including the largest 200 firms by market capitalization listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange - to disclose their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and climate change strategies. According to the report, large GHG emitting companies are more likely to have comprehensive climate change strategies in place. In high-GHG emitting sectors, 70 percent of respondents are taking or planning action on climate change opportunities, compared to 58 percent from sectors with low emissions. The 2010 Canadian results indicate a strong level of engagement and leadership at the highest corporate levels in the largest companies. More than three-quarters of respondents said that the board of directors, a board committee or an executive member of the board is responsible for climate change activities within their companies. "Addressing the implications of climate change starts at the top. Most 2010 CDP respondents report that their boards now pay explicit attention to climate change. This level of engagement demonstrates that respondents are embedding the consideration of climate change in their strategic and operational plans, and in their management thinking," said Gilles Rhéaume, vice-president, Public Policy, The Conference Board of Canada. The 92 companies that answered the 2010 information request collectively represent 73 percent of the combined $1.1 trillion in market capitalization of the 200 companies asked to respond. Close to 80 percent of the companies with market capitalization of more than $10 billion responded, compared to 28 percent in the group with the smallest market capitalization ($100 million to $1 billion). "The overall response rate declined slightly from the previous two years, but it is in line with the five-year CDP average in Canada. It is noteworthy that the number of Canadian investors endorsing the CDP has increased over the five years. Yet, the response rate has levelled off over the same period," said Rhéaume. The CDP recognizes 15 companies that demonstrate exceptional disclosure practices as Carbon Disclosure Leaders. This year's recipients include: ARC Energy Trust; Bank of Montreal; Barrick Gold; Cameco Corporation; Cenovus Energy; Emera Inc.; National Bank of Canada; Nexen; Pason Systems; Russell Metals; SNC-Lavalin; Stantec; Telus Corporation; The Royal Bank of Canada; and TransAlta Corporation. The performance of Canadian companies compared to firms from peer countries or regions changed little between 2009 and 2010.  Canadian companies improved their rankings on disclosure or performance relative to other countries or regions in three areas: engagement with policy makers on climate change; overall response rate; and the percentage of respondents seeing regulatory risks and opportunities. Canadian firms continue to have mid-level rankings in having board-level governance, and in having management incentives for climate change in place. "Canadian companies are lagging with regard to setting emission reduction targets, and having emissions data verified by external parties," said Rhéaume. "One possible reason for Canada's lower international ranking in these areas is the absence of firm climate change policies in North America, compared to the more established regimes in place in Europe and Scandinavia." For more information, visit http://www.conferenceboard.ca/documents.aspx?did=3803.

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