CSR in 2002: Sex and the City, quiet revolutions, and a government minister telling all
Corporate environmental management was likened to teenage sex in 2002, and Michael Meacher spilt the beans about the Government’s record on the environment.
The year started with a call for compulsory corporate environmental reporting from Friends of the Earth (see related story), and a call from the Environmental Industries Commission (EIC) for the Government to increase its assistance for green technologies (see related story). Meanwhile, groups up and down Britain celebrated the ‘quiet revolution’ – the success of Local Agenda 21, with community recycling galore (see related story).
March was a month of optimism, with the announcement that the UK is becoming ‘greener’, with both air and river quality improving (see related story) – although this was disputed in July by Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee who said that the Government had been selective with the facts (see related story). What was not disputed, however, was the fact that companies’ environmental risk is becoming increasingly important in the City (see related story).
In May, Environment Agency Chief Executive Barbara Young announced that environmental performance by corporate Britain was a bit like teenage sex – a lot of talk and little action (see related story). The Scottish Executive outlined its plan for sustainable development in Scotland (see related story). In order to help companies achieve such noble aims, the Institute of Chemical Engineers and the Chemical Industries Association published their green guidelines for sustainable industry (see related story).
Optimism abounded in June, when it was announced that the UK is one of the most resource-efficient countries in the EU (see related story).
In July, the Environment Agency revealed that poor corporate management across the country was responsible for a sharp rise in serious pollution incidents in 2001 (see related story). Meanwhile, DEFRA published a white paper requiring company reports to provide greater transparency with regard to environmental issues (see related story), whilst a survey revealed that those companies that are behaving responsibly are hiding their lights (see related story).
August was the month for criticising the Government’s record on the environment. Environment Minister Michael Meacher revealed in an interview in The Times that he believed that the environment was not at the heart of Tony Blair’s administration (see related story), whilst seasoned environmental campaigner and now government advisor Jonathon Porritt noted that whilst the Government had its faults with environmental issues, they are the best we have ever had (see related story). The environment industry also added its voice to the debate, stating that government support is inadequate for the valuable environmental export trade (see related story).
The markets do have sufficient power to save the environment, with a periodic regulatory nudge in the right direction, concluded the Royal Institution in September (see related story). However, sustainability is actually the responsibility of consumers, said the UK’s Stakeholder Forum (see related story), with each Londoner producing an ecological footprint the size of eight football pitches (see related story). In Scotland, the Centre for Human Ecology found that companies were risking their reputations by failing to report on their environmental activities (see related story).
In October it was reported that industrial pollution is decreasing (see related story), possibly because corporate spending on the environment is increasing (see related story). The Environment Agency called on developers to play their part in integrating sustainability (see related story), and ten professional environmental institutions and societies formed a new umbrella body for environmental affairs, suggesting that they might launch a new ‘Chartered Environmentalist’ qualification (see related story)
Stricter sentencing for environmental crime was on the cards in November (see related story), although the UK’s environmental performance was generally improving – but restructuring is required in the transport, energy and waste sectors, said the OECD (see related story). The good news was that the environmental consultancy market was predicted following market analysis by ENDS to reach £1.5 billion over the next five years (see related story).
Finally, the year ended on a less positive note, as in December it was revealed by the Institute of Directors that there is a considerable gap between managing directors’ words and actions with regard to corporate socially responsible behaviour (see related story).
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