Long way to go on environment

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The Independent Online

Companies are improving the quality of their environmental reporting but they still have a long way to go, according to the Chartered Association of Certified Accountants.

The association, which yesterday announced that Thorn EMI was the overall winner of its annual awards for the second consecutive year, said the gap between the best companies and the others was narrowing. However, since there were only 45 entries from the UK and Continental Europe, it was clear that the corporate world still did not regard the environment as an important issue.

Ed Gallagher, chief executive of the newly created Environment Agency, said when presenting the prizes that the absence of legislation requiring companies to make such disclosures meant that they would have to be persuaded rather than forced to improve. He added that "one of the gaps at the moment" was that while businesses were proud of their achievements in such areas as reducing emission levels, they generally failed to say what they would do about cleaning up the problems of the past.

The judges praised Thorn for including four pages of environmental data and comment in its annual report and accounts as well as publishing a stand-alone environmental report.

The runner-up, National Power, was commended for the scope of a report that was supported by a comprehensive series of site reports, all of which were externally verified.

London Electricity, which received the award for the Best First-Time Reporter, was praised for the visual and communicative quality of its report, while Neumarkter Lammsbrau, a German independent brewing company, won the award for the best report by a small or medium-sized enterprise.

The judges also praised IBM for the quality of its analysis of stakeholders' needs and Shared Earth, a York-based supplier of ethnic goods.

Professor Mike Harvey, president of the association, pointed out that there were fewer reports that were simply descriptive and "cherry-picked" isolated good deeds. This year's entries "indicated a higher level of commitment to real target-setting on environmental performance and to reporting in quantitative terms."