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When major investors ask, many big companies answer on carbon emissions

When major investors ask, many big companies answer on carbon emissions

Many of the world's biggest companies are willing to disclose their carbon dioxide emissions and whether they have plans to reduce them _ at least when the world's largest investors ask.
Among Fortune 500 companies, 72 percent responded to questions posed by the Carbon Disclosure Project, the organization said Wednesday, up from 71 percent last year and from 47 percent four years ago, including for the first time Wal-Mart Stores Inc., American Express Co., Boeing Co. and Home Depot Inc.
However, fewer of the companies were willing to actually estimate their emissions than last year, and there is no hard evidence they are reducing them.
The disclosure project is backed by 225 institutions controlling US$31.5 trillion (euro24.8 trillion) in assets, including large investors like Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Switzerland's UBS AG and the California Public Employees Retirement System.
Carbon Disclosure Project Chairman James Cameron said the point of asking the companies for information was not to find out whether they were actually cutting emissions, but to help investors make decisions about how to allocate their funds.
"What the investment community is beginning to understand is how to align creation of wealth with protection of the environment," he said at a conference in Amsterdam.
"Unless we adequately value greenhouse gas emissions, there is no point in getting the financial returns were are committing to for our beneficiaries in the long term," he said.
Carbon dioxide is one of the most important among the greenhouses gases scientists believe are contributing to global warming.
But there were also some negative trends in the survey. Only 48 percent of the companies were willing to give actual data on how much carbon they emitted, and only 42 percent said they had a reduction plan. Both numbers were slightly lower than a year ago.
Because of "the growing financial importance of greenhouse gas emissions management in certain industrial sectors, firms may be less willing to disclose details ... particularly when it is incomplete or unverified," the Carbon Disclosure Project report said.
The organization also named companies that weren't willing to respond, including Altria Group Inc., the owner of tobacco company Philip Morris, video game maker Electronic Arts Inc., mortgage company Fannie Mae, and Hong Kong real estate company Sun Hung Kai Properties _ nearly half of whose shares are held by backers of the project.
"It's absolutely imperative that we deal with climate change in a rational economic way and take out the hysterics that persuade our governments to do less than they should," Cameron said.
Investors "don't have the luxury of waiting to see if it's bad if it might be, there's just too much risk."
The findings were announced at a conference on sustainability reporting _ which means how companies measure and disclose the impact they have on the world socially and environmentally, rather than just financially.
The conference is organized by the Global Reporting Initiative, which is due to announce new reporting guidelines for corporations on Thursday. Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore is to address the conference on Friday.