Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Law Firm Surveys Business Views On Climate Change & Sustainability

Oct 10: While U.S. businesses are concerned about compliance costs related to climate change legislation, those same companies still believe that the federal government should be doing more to combat global warming, according to a recent survey (released September 24, 2007) sponsored by the law firm of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman and their Climate Change & Sustainability practice group. Though 60% of survey respondents said they worry about compliance costs related to climate change rules, 56% of private company respondents (and 66% of public ones) think the federal government should do more to help reduce or limit global warming, including the development and use of alternative and renewable energy.

San Francisco partner Michael Steel, co-head of Pillsbury’s Climate Change & Sustainability practice group said, “This reflects the dilemma that Congress and Americans as a whole face. Most people would like to see greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduced to help curb the effects of climate change, but serious questions remain about how best to do it and pay for it.” Steel said that these questions may help explain why some companies may be struggling with what type of green practices to employ, therefore delaying adoption, even as they are increasingly aware of environmental issues, including global warming.

The survey was conducted by the Research and Analysis Center of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Nearly 600 American businesses participated in the survey, which is believed to be the first to assess the impact of climate change issues across all industries and U.S. company demographics today, gathering responses from small family-owned businesses, large public multinationals and every size company in between. Pillsbury said it plans to repeat the survey periodically to track the progress U.S. businesses are making.

Some of the findings indicate that 57% of those surveyed say that in the past 12-24 months they have switched to using or selling more recycled materials or products, and nearly 49% have reduced their use of electricity. Another 48% participate in programs to properly dispose of computers and other technologies that leak radiation and other contaminants. Just 23% of those surveyed have upgraded or converted to cleaner technologies or equipment, while 21% have reduced their use of fossil fuels.

Only 13.3 % of survey respondents have conducted such an energy audit. Of those companies that have adopted one or more green practices, 64% say the switch has not raised operating costs, and one quarter report that their costs of operations have actually been reduced. Regarding new opportunities that climate change issues may offer, 35% of those surveyed responded favorably.

Regarding proposals related to carbon trading, Pillsbury said both public and private companies surveyed expressed disinterest. Just 2% of those surveyed have invested in carbon credits, and 25% of the respondents, mostly smaller business owners, were not familiar with any carbon credit program, which Pillsbury said "suggests far more education about carbon trading may be warranted for it to succeed as a viable alternative for emissions-heavy companies."

One surprising result was that 28% of public companies responding to the survey said they would prefer one federal law governing climate change rules while 22% favor individual state laws. Among the private companies, 31% would prefer one federal law and 19% individual state ones. Pillsbury indicated that they expected that public companies would favor a Federal law over individual state rules "because it generally costs far more to comply with numerous differing rules than a set of consistent laws and regulations.”

Access a release from Pillsbury (click here). Access the complete 12-page results report on the survey (click here). Access the Pillsbury Climate Change & Sustainability practice group website for additional information (click here). [*Climate, *Sustainability]