Big increase in Irish companies reporting carbon emissions, report finds

CDP says number of Irish companies reporting is up from 31 to 47

There has been a 52 per cent increase in Irish companies reporting their carbon emissions over the past year, according to the not-for-profit CDP Ireland Network, which is part of a global environmental reporting network.

A total of 47 Irish companies which are headquartered in Ireland are reporting on their emissions, up from 31 last year, its annual report issued on Thursday confirms.

“Irish companies are becoming increasingly willing to set externally verified climate emissions targets,” it adds.

New "respondents" this year included the listed companies Ryanair; Glenveagh Properties, Hibernia Reit, Uniphar, Cairn Homes and semi-state companies Gas Networks Ireland and CIÉ.


The top 10 ranked Irish companies were all graded either A or A-, while 68 per cent of respondents ranked B- or better. This compares to 35 per cent achieving B- or better in 2017 – and only 25 per cent of companies globally achieving this rank or higher in 2020.

The top 10 with an A ranking were: AIB, Accenture, Kingspan, ESB, Seagate Technology, Mainstream Renewable Power, Smurfit Kappa, An Post, Ardagh Group and Johnson Controls International.

Environmental impact

The carbon disclosure project (CDP) measures the environmental impact of companies on behalf of 590 leading global investors representing $110 trillion (€91 trillion) in assets. Its disclosure system allows investors, companies, cities, states and regions to manage their environmental impacts. Progress is independently verified by CDP’s experts.

The willingness of companies to participate “is a recognition that investors, customers and employees have high expectations of the level of disclosure and transparency they receive on environmental factors”, the report adds.

Companies looking to improve their performance in CDP rankings make commitments on reducing emissions through the science-based targets initiative (SBTi). This entails setting targets in line with the level of decarbonisation required to keep global temperature increase well below two degrees and preferably closer to 1.5 degrees – consistent with Paris Climate Agreement goals.

The average CO2 emitted by 257 companies with operations in Ireland reporting to CDP was 50,483 tonnes; a decrease of 24 per cent on 2019. This reflects Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions from owned or controlled sources within their operations, and indirect emissions arising from purchased energy.

CDP Ireland chairman Shane O’Reilly said: “Despite the challenges of Covid-19, there was a massive 52 per cent increase in Irish companies reporting to CDP in 2020. These companies are making a clear signal to their key stakeholders of their serious intent to address climate change issues.”

Encouraged by investor scrutiny, customer competitive focus and pushed by EU regulation, “climate change has moved from the sustainability office onto the board room table”, said CDP Ireland executive director Brian O’Kennedy, “and is now an integral part of the annual reporting cycle of many Irish companies.”

CDP's global chief executive Paul Simpson underlined the importance of measuring and managing environmental risks through disclosure, which "helps companies, cities, states and regions to build resiliency and plan for the future".

Top listed companies

A total 19 out of Ireland’s top 30 listed companies participated by responding to CDP’s questionnaire. As with previous years, non-responding listed companies are given an ‘F’ rating in the CDP report. “Albeit a shrinking number, the CDP Ireland Network believes that non-disclosing companies will increasingly be at a competitive disadvantage,” the report notes.

CIÉ, Ireland’s largest public transport provider, achieved the highest rating among new participants: a B rating

CIÉ group chief executive Lorcan O’Connor said: “Sustainability is inherent to public transport, but as a group, we are ambitious to be a national leader in tackling climate issues, and ensure for our customers and stakeholders that the post-Covid transport landscape will maximise its sustainability.”

European companies will have to collectively cut carbon emissions in half over the next decade to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees by 2100, a report from CDP Europe and consultancy Oliver Wyman warned earlier this week.

The current climate plans of Europe’s 1,000 largest firms put the continent on track for a 2.7 degrees increase by the end of the century, it found. Fewer than one in 10 businesses had a strategy aligned with the Paris agreement. The report said banks could “galvanise companies by rewarding climate ambitious firms with better lending terms”.

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times