Somewhere in between the opposite poles described by the quotations below from the hockey player and the physicist is where firms need to begin positioning themselves on greenhouse gas (GHG) reporting.
The difficulty is, that area in between the platitudes is a vast field.
New U.S. regulations require that an EPA-estimated 15,000 firms will file formal reports in 2011 enumerating their 2010 GHG emissions. These 15,000 know where the puck will be for them, but is there an advantage for others to start skating now toward a more distant point?
Some firms believe there is. As Eric Woodroof, a BUILDINGS contributor and founder of ProfitableGreenSolutions.com, noted in a recent article, some firms embrace formal reporting because their clients favor green suppliers. As a result, they use it in image marketing, regardless of whether it is mandated or not – and unlike many countries, the United States has little GHG legislation. And if more regulations are on the way, then these firms will be in position to take advantage of existing accounting procedures and use their historic data to judge the future impact on emissions of today’s decisions. (You can read Eric’s latest contribution, "GHG Reporting in 5 Minutes," at www.BUILDINGS.com and view the newsletter archive.
Others argue with good reason that the future will come soon enough, and that it’s better to delay expenses that may never be required.
In a survey of BUILDINGS subscribers, I asked what premium their firms would be willing to pay for renewable energy and/or lower greenhouse emissions. The overwhelming response at 48 percent was "would not pay more." Next, at 24 percent, was a group that said they would willingly pay 5 percent; 3 percent of the respondents said their firms would pay 50 percent or more.
The response varied significantly, however, by the type of building owner. For example, 18 percent of the healthcare/medical organizations said that they would pay a premium of 50 percent or more, five times greater than the average for all respondents; conversely, at the scale’s other end, 78 percent of financial/insurance companies would not pay more, which represents a 62 percent increase over the average for all respondents.
The question about willingness to pay GHG premiums may prove to be a bellwether, and I will ask it in future surveys to see if, and how quickly, the responses change.