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The Big Picture: Green agenda has impetus

The drive to go green is set to become big business. From carbon offsetting to solar energy, video conferencing to engine downsizing, companies are starting to look at their role in the climate debate.

Car retailers, already under pressure from legislators and lobbyists who are targeting inefficient SUVs and 4x4s (a topic previous debated in this column), can be at the forefront of this new focus.

Taking the first steps are groups like Sandicliffe, which is introducing measures to cut its contribution to the carbon emissions build up. Sandicliffe has signed up for carbon offsetting by planting trees for every car sold. It is also encouraging customers to consider smaller, more efficient cars through its green labelling scheme, offering free environmental engine checks and recycling accident damaged bumpers and old engine oil as heating oil.

The benefits of taking action to address environmental concerns are twofold: being seen to be ‘green’ gives you a competitive edge with concerned consumers, while it can also cut overheads through efficiencies.

The carbon emissions debate is not going to go away. In Europe, cars might only contribute around 1.5% of global CO2 emissions, but they are highly visible to the public and media and – as often happens – that makes them an easy target for those looking to earn green points.

Many European carmakers look set to miss their 2008 target of 140g/km, although this target is an industry goal. If some carmakers miss it but the overall emissions output falls below 140g/km, due to the actions of carmakers like Toyota and Honda, the objective will be met. That won’t make as big headlines, however.

Neither will the fact that transport is no bigger a polluter than industry or agriculture, and is responsible for less carbon than power generation and deforestation.

Public perception is everything. Retailers who take steps to address the impact their business has on the environment will have competitive advantage with consumers.

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