Seventy percent of corporate executives at large companies plan to increase their spending on climate change initiatives between 2010 and 2012, according to a new survey by Ernst & Young.

The firm surveyed 300 global executives at companies with at least $1 billion in annual revenue, and found that the executives expect to make significant investments to deliver both cost savings and revenue generation opportunities relating to climate change. Nearly half plan to spend between 0.5 percent to more than 5 percent of their revenue on climate change initiatives. For a $1 billion company, this represents an anticipated spend of $5 million to $50 million annually. 

“Corporate leaders are not letting the lack of global standards and regulations slow their climate change investments,” said Steve Starbuck, Americas climate change and sustainability services leader at Ernst & Young LLP, in a statement. “Other market drivers, such as equity analysts’ growing interest in climate change performance, are prompting a further need to act and be more transparent.”

Corporate climate change activities are being driven by evolving customer demands according to 89 percent of the survey respondents. Some sectors, including automotive, consumer products, and technology, unanimously agree that changing customer preferences have created significant drivers for action and innovation. Meanwhile, equity analysts are increasingly linking the business response to climate change and company valuations. Over 40 percent of the senior executives surveyed believe that equity analysts currently include climate change-related factors in company valuations.

Energy efficiency is at the top of the list as 82 percent of respondents plan to invest in this space over the next 12 months. About half of the respondents confirm new ventures, such as spin-offs or start-up businesses, as an area for focus. In addition, 65 percent of the executives polled intend to focus their investments on new products and services.

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