Going green isn't saving businesses as much green as it could be, a new study shows.
Research by Ernst & Young found that many companies are missing opportunities to save money by failing to integrate their tax departments and sustainability programs.
Just 16 percent of the surveyed companies that have or are developing an environmental sustainability strategy said their tax or finance departments are actively involved in the process.
"Reducing energy consumption and carbon emissions, switching to alternative energy and fuel sources, innovating for cleaner technologies and offsetting carbon emissions — all of these efforts have tax considerations," said Paul Naumoff, global and Americas leader of climate change and sustainability services and CleanTech tax services at Ernst & Young.
Many business leaders aren't aware of the vast amount of tax breaks offered for going green. Examples of state incentives include a Pennsylvania grant program that offers up to $2 million for high-performance building projects, and a 100 percent tax credit for New Jersey businesses engaged in manufacturing wind- energy equipment.
Just 50 percent of those surveyed said they knew about the state credits offered, and even fewer were cognizant of local incentives for going green. Overall, nearly 40 percent said they didn't know any type of sustainability incentives were available at all.
Among companies that were in the know, only 17 percent report taking advantage of the available green incentives.
With all the available tax and other incentives for environmental sustainability programs, the study suggests it's important for businesses to analyze the opportunities within the context of their sustainability and revenue goals, as well as factors that may be unique to their region. When developing a sustainability platform, the research advises businesses to start planning early, since many incentive programs require pre-approval and have finite time frames.
The research was based on surveys of 223 senior executives, including chief sustainability officers and tax directors, at companies predominantly in the United States.
Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance business and technology writer who has worked in public relations and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cbrooks76.