EUROPE - Businesses in the Nordic region are now dealing more rigorously with climate issues, with an increasing number reporting how they deal with the risks and opportunities presented by climate change, according to Denmark’s ATP pension fund.

Citing the latest Nordic region annual report from the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), in which ATP is a partner, the fund said 80% of companies now have a target for CO2 reduction, or are developing one, and that 79% of those companies reporting to the CDP already release their responses publicly.

Ole Beier Sørensen, chief of research at ATP, said: “Seen in the light of the economic crisis, one could have expected less of a focus on CO2 emissions, energy efficiency and climate-related risks, but there is no sign of that in the companies’ responses.

“On the contrary, there are clear indications the focus on climate issues is high on the agenda at most large companies in the Nordic region, just as businesses now see a focus on climate issues to a greater extent as an important source of competitive advantage.”

According to the report, 66% of companies from Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Norway responded to the CDP this year, up from 65% in 2009.

ATP pointed out that this meant the number of companies reporting to the CDP had risen for the fourth year in a row.

The response rate from Danish companies has risen by 5 percentage points from 2009 to 73% in 2010.

In the survey, most large Nordic companies said they considered themselves to be in a situation where they could take advantage of the need for reduced CO2 emissions, according to ATP.

More companies are now placing the responsibility for climate-related matters at a high strategic level in their organisations, Beier Sørensen said.

“Eighty-nine per cent of companies report that the highest level of responsibility for climate change lies with a board committee or other executive body, compared with 77% in 2009,” he added. “This compares favourably with results from the Global 500 companies (84%).”

It is now even more common for companies in the region to offer incentives to encourage operations to meet targets on greenhouse gas emissions, Beier Sorensen said.

Forty-four per cent of Nordic respondents provide incentives for the management of climate-related issues, up from 30% in 2009, he said.

The CDP was set up in 2000, and its surveys collect data from businesses about their focus on climate issues.

They are meant to help the companies themselves by creating an overview of how climate change is affecting them, as well as investors, by providing an overview of companies’ approach to the subject.