ETBPP sizes up attitudes to environmental performance

It's official, size does matter. The 1998 Attitudes and Barriers to Improved Environmental Performance survey, undertaken by BMRB International on behalf of the Environmental Technology Best Practice Programme (ETBPP), reveals that large companies - defined in the survey as those with more than 250 employees - are more advanced in almost all areas of environmental policy.

The survey was compiled from the responses of some 1,401 companies across 12 industry sectors, with engineering joining the initial 11 surveyed in 1995.

Whilst the 1995 survey highlighted industry’s widely-held belief that environmental improvement represented “all cost and no benefit”, signs are now apparent that indicate an acceptance within corporate culture of the bottom-line benefits associated with improved environmental performance. Regulatory pressure, it seems, is no longer the principal driver. Broadly half (51%) of all companies surveyed agreed that “improving environmental performance usually improves production efficiency”, with the Chemicals, Food & Drink and Iron & Steel industries leading the way. Fifty three per cent of smaller companies, however, remain motivated solely by legislation. Further, the survey reveals a widespread need for more information about the potential impact of environmental legislation – a need which has has not been significantly addressed since identified in 1995.

Notably, the Paper & Board sector is even less convinced of the benefits of environmental improvement than it was three years ago, being significantly more likely to regard financial constraints as a barrier to environmental improvement than any other – a resistance to change potentially due to the largely downstream nature of environmental improvents in the sector alongside the high capital costs involved.

Monitoring of waste or emissions took place in nearly two-thirds of sites surveyed, a figure largely unchanged from that of 1995 in all sectors but Ceramics and Plastics, and one that again rises steeply when plotted against size. The Ceramics industry has also proven exceptional in terms of setting targets for reductions of emissions and waste, being the only sector polled to show an increase – of 20% – in the number of sites with targets in place, rather than a decrease. Paper & Board took the biggest backward step, with 28% fewer sites setting reduction targets, followed by Chemicals (down 11%), and Food & Drink and Textiles (both down 8%). Plastics and Printing sectors remained unchanged.

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