Green tide turning for businesses

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The Independent Online
PRESSURE for companies to report on their environmental performance could lead to billions of pounds being wiped off their share values, according to a report published today, writes David Nicholson-Lord.

The report surveys the environmental reporting practices of more than 70 leading companies in Europe, North America and Japan, and concludes that the main reason for doing it in future will not be to establish the firm as a 'responsible corporate citizen' but to secure a competitive advantage.

Among forces pushing companies towards environmental reporting are regulations, stock market rules, business peer pressures and public concern, it says.

'Businesses which think they can hide the damage they are causing will find they are living with false hopes . . . Major companies that do not produce environmental performance reports will begin to be judged to be poor performers in other areas , such as quality.'

The report, Coming Clean, was produced by a consortium of accountants and consultants, including Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu International and SustainAbility. John Elkington, director of SustainAbility, said multinationals had responded faster to the threat implied by growing demands for environmental disclosure.

Among companies cited with approval in the report are Norsk Hydro, Monsanto, Carlsberg, Dow Europe, 3M, BP Chemicals and British Airways.

It analyses five stages of reporting, ranging from 'green glossies' and a short statement in the annual report to full data on sustainable development performance.