Index will give companies a 'green' rating

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The Independent Online

Companies in the UK will soon get an environmental rating whether they like it or not because of an initiative to be launched in June by Environmental Counselling & Communications (Ecco) in conjunction with Infocheck, the biggest on-line financial information agency in the UK.

The Ecco-Check Index will be made up from all of the 850,000 companies on Infocheck's database.

Ratings will be based on information already publicly available and supplemented by questionnaires and follow-up meetings with companies.

Companies will be rated whether or not they fill out a questionnaire.

The Body Shop, lead by the environmental guru Anita Roddick, which already carries out its own, independently verified environmental audits, welcomed the move, although it warned that any criteria used would be open to debate.

Both Shell UK and BP said they would be in favour of such a rating as they already made environmental records freely available.

Simon Whalley, the managing director of Ecco, says it will take more than a year to collate the information on all companies listed with Infocheck.

Ecco-Check is the first fully commercial index in Europe for anyone who needs to check on the environmental performance of a company. The fee is around pounds 10 per company.

Attempts to rate UK companies for environmental performance have so far failed.

Earlier this year, the Centre for the Study of Financial Information decided not to launch its own ratings after a pilot rating study on Scottish Nuclear took some seven months to complete.

Information for each check will come from registers held by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Pollution, the National River Authority effluent consent registers and waste management licences held by waste regulation authorities.

Companies will be rated from 1A, the lowest risk, to 3C, the highest risk. If companies can show improved risk reduction or a better environmental management system they will get an upgraded rating.

A company with a pollution conviction or damages judgment in the last three years will carry an endorsement on its rating for three years after the offence.

Mr Whalley expects most companies will start in a fourth category indicating that the company has not yet returned a questionnaire.

The information will be updated on a quarterly basis and sent to individual companies for verification.