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Decarbonisation: Policy and support are key to wider business buy-in

  • Date: Fri, Apr 26, 2024

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By Danielle Barron, the Irish Times

Assistant Professor of Management Heletjé van Staden speaks to the Irish Times

To meet its emissions reduction targets the State needs to 'put the right policy in place and implement this policy in a timely manner, remove barriers to project development and provide market certainty'. Photograph: iStock

According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s most recent annual report, Irish transport greenhouse gas emissions increased by 6.7 per cent in 2022, more than double the EU’s average of a 2.7 per cent increase for that year. While many Irish companies are leading the way in meeting science-based targets for cutting emissions and embracing sustainability and transparency about their carbon footprint, some experts say this is not enough, with wider buy-in and more support from Government required.

The Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) sets standards by which corporates should reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to align with international climate targets, such as keeping the global temperature rise to 1.5 degree. The SBTi is the global gold standard for corporates to use to determine reduction targets, says Dr Dorothy Maxwell, head of Davy Horizons, Davy’s sustainability consultancy.
“These are modelled for most sectors of the economy and take into account International Energy Agency scenarios for global emissions reduction pathways,” she says. “Validating to the SBTi is the global gold standard to ensure credibility and avoid greenwash.”

According to Philip Connolly, associate director in sustainable futures with KPMG, 104 Irish companies have signed up to the SBTi, 58 of which have approved targets. These include big names such as Origin Enterprises plc, CRH, Bank of Ireland, Kerry Group, Brown Thomas Arnotts and The Merrion Hotel.

“But if we take Denmark as an example of a similar economy, it has 233 companies signed up with SBTi and 177 out of those have approved targets,” says Connolly. “While there are some excellent examples of Irish corporates embracing sustainability and conversations about net-zero targets are now commonplace amongst corporates, more action is required to see real progress.”

Maxwell points out that, for Irish private companies, the initiative is still new but mandatory sustainability reporting under the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive, as well as customer and lender demands, are “growing drivers”.

Indeed, more and more companies are coming on board. Tomás Sercovich, CEO of Business in the Community Ireland (BITCI), says the organisation has seen among its members a greater commitment to and sense of urgency around decarbonising their operations.
“Our low carbon pledge now has 68 companies signed up, spanning 11 different sectors, with professional services and agribusiness and food/drink companies being the largest sector groups,” says Sercovich. “These pledge signatories are committed to setting SBTs no later than December 2024 across their entire carbon footprint.” 

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This article was originally published on April 25, 2024 in the Irish Times Special Report, Sustainable Ireland. 


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