Business leaders have significantly broadened their pledge to reduce carbon emissions by including for the first time commitments on business travel as well as constraints on waste generation and water consumption.

The pledges came as Business in the Community Ireland (BITCI) held its annual 12th annual CEO Breakfast Forum at the Mansion House in Dublin. 

Over 250 business leaders attended the event.

A total of 54 companies have now signed the low carbon pledge, up from 43 last year. 

In the inaugural pledge, companies initially committed to reduce both Scope 1 and Scope 2 carbon emission intensity by 50% by 2030. 

Scope 1 emissions are the greenhouse gases produced directly from sources that are owned and controlled by the company, such as fuels used in vehicles, boilers and furnaces. 

Scope 2 emissions relate to indirect greenhouse gases from purchase of electricity. 

Scope 3 emissions relate to all indirect carbon emissions up and down the value chain, including business travel, waste generation and water consumption. 

BITCI CEO Tomas Sercovich said reducing emissions from business travel was a new challenge, particularly as many companies are major travel consumers. 

"In addition, we will be asking signatory companies to start the next step in understanding the spread of their carbon impact by probing what are the major significant indirect carbon emission sources within their supply chain," Mr Sercovich said. 

"They will be expected to ensure that their suppliers have to fulfil a low carbon approach to their operations," he stated.

"This will have a multiplier effect in cutting emissions, promoting efficiency and preparedness for a decarbonised economy," he added.

Meanwhile both AIB Group and Tesco have achieved BITCI's Business Working Responsibly mark - the top audited standard for sustainability. 

Another 14 were recertified to the standard - A&L Goodbody, Accenture, Bank of Ireland, Dawn Meats, Eir, EirGrid, Janssen Supply Chain, Marks and Spencer Ireland, Musgrave Group, Northern Trust Management Services Ireland, Ricoh Ireland, Ulster Bank Ireland Veolia Ireland and Vodafone Ireland.

A total of 34 companies now have achieved the BITCI Mark.

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Speaking at today's CEO event, Denis O'Sullivan - the managing director of Gas Networks Ireland and the co-chair of the low carbon economy group in Business in the Community Ireland - said that when businesses sign up to the climate pledge they are committing to reducing their emissions by 50% between now and 2030.

Mr O'Sullivan said that Gas Networks Ireland has reduced its own emissions since 2006 by 42%, adding that while the company has made significant strides, it still has a lot to do, especially in the areas of Scope 3 emissions, which include water and waste generation. 

He also said that business leaders in Ireland are taking the climate change issue seriously.

Kari Daniels, CEO of Tesco Ireland, said it has taken the company many years of hard work to achieve the Business Working Responsibly mark across all of its 151 Irish stores. 

Ms Daniels said the mark was an important benchmark and audit of all the good work Tesco and its employees have been doing, including reducing its energy consumption by 24% over the last five years.

The company also works very closely with Foodcloud which ensures that no good food goes to waste with Tesco donating the equivalent of 10 million meals. It is also following a sustainable sourcing programme, with all of its agricultural produce - beef, pork, chicken, eggs - coming from 13,000 Irish farms.

On the issue of packaging, the Tesco Ireland CEO said that the company is working very closely with its suppliers on ways of reducing and removing and recycling packaging. 

In its store in Cabra in Dublin, Tesco has introduced a new recycling area where customers can remove packaging - including film wrapping - that they don't want to take home and Tesco takes care of it.