Ten years of corporate action on climate change: What do we have to show for it?

A significant proportion of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions can be attributed, directly or indirectly, to corporate activities. An increasing number of companies have set targets and have adopted initiatives to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, raising the question of what sorts of outcomes can realistically be expected from corporate action on climate change? This paper aims to shed some light on this issue through an analysis of the climate change performance of the UK supermarket sector. This sector is directly responsible for around 1% of UK greenhouse gas emissions, but it has been estimated that indirectly it may be responsible for up to 10% of emissions. In the period between 2000 and 2010, the major UK supermarkets transformed their approach to climate change. This paper examines the outcomes that resulted from these actions. It finds that there have been significant and steady improvements in energy efficiency, but that these efficiency gains are often outstripped by the impacts of business growth. For most companies, short of a radical redesign of their business activities, or an expansion of the scope of their energy management initiatives to include their indirect emissions, total greenhouse gas emissions will tend to increase over time.

Sullivan R; Gouldson A (2013), Energy Policy.