Sixty of Ireland's largest companies have publicly committed to setting carbon-reduction targets based on climate science. They are the first signatories to a new "low-carbon pledge" overseen by Business in the Community Ireland.
The companies range across all sections of the economy and include major utilities such as the ESB, Irish Water, Gas Networks Ireland and An Post.
Business in the Community Ireland (BITCI), which is a not-for-profit network for sustainability, initially established a carbon pledge in 2018 with the aim of being a starting point for its member companies to commit to cutting their carbon footprint, to report annually on progress and to develop a credible roadmap towards a “net-zero emissions economy”.
The new version requires businesses to set science-based emission reduction targets no later than 2024 – this is based on what climate science indicates is necessary to limit global warming to within 1.5 degrees, a key goal of the Paris climate agreement.
Signatory companies commit to recording their entire carbon footprint, both direct emissions from their operations including energy use (classified as Scope 1 and 2) and indirect (Scope 3) emissions upstream and downstream in their supply chains.
In addition, they undertake to reduce emissions under these headings and to indicate progress through an annual report website or other publicly available source, and collectively through the annual BITCI low-carbon report.
Minister for Climate Action and Environment Eamon Ryan welcomed the scale of commitment announced on Wednesday.
As the critical COP26 global summit approaches, he added: “We must accelerate our climate response across our economy and society. I commend Business in the Community Ireland on this collective action especially as it brings together companies from different sectors and at different levels of maturity on their decarbonisation journey.”
A low-carbon economy was “imperative for our post-pandemic recovery as it will support our long-term competitiveness, job creation and social cohesion”, Mr Ryan said.
The pledge’s key strength was in the collaborative platform which enables signatory companies to learn from each other’s successes and challenges, said BITCI chief executive Tomás Sercovich.
“The low-carbon pledge movement builds capacity, fosters innovation and drives the ambition in delivering the changes needed,” he said – BITCI along with the CDP Ireland Network are the main platforms for Irish business to pursue decarbonisation backed by independently verified environmental reporting.
“Investors, regulators, consumers, suppliers and employees expect business to lead the net-zero vision we all aspire. Transparency and accountability are fundamental for the change to happen,” Mr Sercovich added.
The pledge was clear demonstration of Irish businesses driving towards decarbonisation, creating the business models, innovation and jobs for a low-carbon future, he believed. “As more businesses join this pledge, we will use our collective voice to drive the new systems thinking we need to overcome this fundamental challenge.”
The other signatories are: A&L Goodbody; Abbvie, ABP Foods, Accenture, Actavo, AIB, Aldi, Allianz, Arup, Aviva, Bank of Ireland, Bidvest Noonan, Boots, Britvic, BT Ireland, Cisco, Cook Medical, Dawn Meats, Deloitte, DePuy Synthes, Diageo, Dublin Bus, EirGrid, Enterprise Rent-a-Car, Fujitsu, Grant Thornton, Heineken Ireland, Hovione Ireland, Irish Rail, Irish Distillers, Janssen, Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, KBC Bank, Keelings, KPMG, Lidl, M&S, Momentum Support, Mercury Engineering, Musgrave, Ornua, Permanent TSB, PM Group, PwC, RTÉ, Sky, Sodexo, SSE, Tesco, Three Ireland, Ulster Bank, Verizon, Veolia, Virgin Media Ireland, Vodafone and William Fry.
Tesco Ireland chief executive Kari Daniels said it had set science-based climate-change targets that would enable it to become net zero by 2050.
She added: “By focusing on energy and refrigeration efficiency improvements and switching to renewable electricity we are on track to meet our targets. There is more to be done and we welcome this renewed approach from BITCI aimed at promoting the adoption of science-based targets to ensure industry is playing its part in the fight against climate change.”