Report shows Low Carbon Pledge companies cut greenhouse gases and calls for a green recovery from COVID-19

Dublin, Friday, 5th June: On World Environment Day, over 50 of the largest companies in Ireland, which have publicly committed to halve their direct carbon footprint between now and 2030, reported on their progress. They are signatories of Business in the Community Ireland’s Low Carbon Pledge.

Business in the Community Ireland, the national network for sustainability, created the Low Carbon Pledge in 2018 with the aim of being a starting point for their member companies to commit to cutting their carbon footprint, report annually on their progress and develop a credible roadmap towards a net zero economy.

For the second year running, BITCI partnered with PwC to produce the Low Carbon Pledge report, Business Working Together for a Low Carbon Ireland, which shows progress of the Pledge signatories towards decarbonisation.

The Low Carbon Pledge requires signatory companies to reduce the intensity of their Scope 1 and Scope 2 carbon emissions by 50% by 2030.  This year the scale of the ambition of the Pledge was increased to incorporate some indirect, or Scope 3, carbon emission sources namely business travel, water consumption and waste generation. Ultimately, the Pledge calls on businesses to work towards setting science-based emission reduction targets (i.e. what science says is necessary to limit global warming to 1.5°C).

The PwC report states that pledge companies are making significant progress towards achieving the target to decrease in carbon intensity by 2030. The average emissions intensity reductions across the pledge companies have increased from 36% in the inaugural report to 41% (the data analysed in this report relates to 2019).

Other key findings include:

  • 55 companies are listed in the report and represent 10 different sectors. The six companies in the Energy and Utilities sector have the largest carbon footprint, accounting for 93% of total scope 1 and 2 emissions amongst pledge companies in 2019.
  • 29 pledge signatories provided data for the following elements of their scope 3 emissions: business travel, waste generated in operations and water consumption. Carbon emissions linked to business travel accounted for 91% of those 29 pledge companies’ scope 3 emissions in 2019. All pledge signatories will report on aspects of Scope 3 in next year’s report.
  • The original 45 pledge signatories featured in the inaugural report reduced their absolute carbon emissions by 18%, from 9.2 MtCO2e in 2018 to 7.5 MtCO2e in 2019
  • 73% of companies have reduced their carbon emissions from electricity usage in 2019.
  • 53% of signatories are conducting external verification of their emissions data, up from 34% last year, however nearly one fifth (17%) have no internal verification procedures in place.

Minister for Communications, Climate Action & Environment, Richard Bruton T.D welcomed today’s report and commented, “Ireland has pledged to deliver net zero emissions by 2050. Enterprise has a key role to play in the changes we need to make as we pick up the pace and move towards a more sustainable, resilient society. 

We now find ourselves in extraordinary circumstances with unprecedented economic and social implications arising from the COVID-19 Pandemic. Some of the changes that have been accelerated as a result of the crisis, in areas such as remote working, e-Health and online selling, are not only more efficient but are also more sustainable and reduce emissions for a healthier, cleaner way of life. We must embed these changes as part of our recovery.

There has been an almost 25% increase in BITCI members signing up to the pledge. It is the pioneers who lead by example that are pivotal to inspiring and influencing others. We need to continue to expand the network and encourage more enterprises to commit and innovate. The commitment to improve measurement and reporting practices by BITCI members is a crucial step.”

Tomás Sercovich, CEO, Business in the Community Ireland (BITCI), said, “Building a new economic model as a result of the pandemic requires significant investment, innovative technology and a new social contract that leaves no one behind. This is a once in a generation opportunity to set the foundations for an inclusive, fair and just net zero economy.

Ireland has a huge challenge ahead to transition to a low carbon economy but also embrace the opportunities a net zero world will offer. Our aim for the Pledge is to provide leadership, set a collective ambition and drive practical action”.

Kim McClenaghan, Partner, PwC’s Energy, Utilities & Sustainability Practice lead and co-author of the report said:  “The level of ambition amongst business leaders to accelerate their decarbonisation journeys is notable. PwC’s latest CEO survey highlighted that investing in climate change initiatives will lead to significant new product and service opportunities.  As companies look to rebuild, it will be important to future proof business models and, where possible, take learnings from our experiences of dealing with COVID-19.

Re-setting corporate resilience and upping the ante on ESG will be key. The harsh lessons from this crisis are likely to accelerate efforts, in a post-pandemic world, of markets and boards to price in systemic risks. This will include accelerating climate risk governance and disclosure, and the prominence of ESG more widely. There is also an opportunity to harness business model disruptions. COVID-19 has rapidly disrupted business norms, and created new preferences and practices that if sustained, could also lead to direct emissions reductions. These could include remote teleworking and increased digital social connecting, nearshoring, and regionalising and nationalising supply chains.” 

The report includes four case studies highlighting some of the key actions the selected companies are taking in order to drive their emissions reductions efforts, and inspire more Irish companies to join them on a path towards enhanced sustainability. The companies are Arup, Musgrave, RTÉ and SSE. The case study companies call out the importance of setting ambitious, corporate wide, targets. Many of the initiatives were made possible by their adoption of science based targets and appropriate reporting and planning frameworks such as the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD).  Novel initiatives such as putting an internal price on carbon to fund decarbonisation projects or route optimisation solutions to reduce transport emissions are detailed.

Download the report

Visit the Low Carbon Pledge section of the website to find out more.

For more information contact

Moira Horgan, BITCI on 086 172 2105 or mhorgan@bitc.ie