IT and internet companies bottom of environmental reporting table

Despite being feted by Government and media alike as the leaders of the new economy, research shows that internet and IT companies are old-fashioned when it comes to addressing the environment.

Pensions and Investment Research Consultants'(PIRC) annual survey of environmental reporting shows that IT and internet companies come bottom out of 38 sub-sectors of business and industry on reporting of environmental issues.

According to the research, only 14% of IT companies are able to claim they have an environmental policy and none describe any improvements in environmental impacts, target setting or undertaking green audits.

“The IT sectors failed on everything,” Stuart Bell, Research Director at PIRC told edie. “There were 12 criteria we assessed companies against, including the disclosure of environmental responsibilities, environmental initiatives taken throughout the year and environmental targets. On all 12 criteria, the IT sectors were the absolute worst by a long chalk across all the sectors of industry. I guess companies in the service sectors are less apt to report than others – they are not exposed to public concerns and perceive themselves as not having environmental impacts. We agree, they have less of an impact than, say, a mining company, but we consider all companies as having an environmental impact to some degree and they have the responsibility to develop policies to address those impacts. The IT companies haven’t taken that on board.”

The survey of environmental disclosures, which covers 674 listed companies in the All Share Index, also shows that environmental reporting is significantly worse among smaller companies than among large companies and corporations. Whereas half of FTSE 100 companies report on environmental improvements and target setting (see related story), less than 10% of SmallCap companies do so, in spite of government demands that all companies with more than 250 employees should report.

The survey says that if high standards of environmental management are to spread throughout the economy, there is a major need for smaller companies to address their reporting responsibilities.

The best sectors for reporting are utilities (especially electricity companies), resources (including mining and oil & gas), basic industries (steel, paper, chemicals, construction) and some service sectors such as food retailers and telecoms.

The report says good reporting is linked with either strict regulation, very high environmental impact or a large consumer base.

But the survey reveals that many companies which include high environmental impact manufacturing businesses, but which do not have a public consumer base, such as engineering, automobile components, electronics and conglomerates, do far less well.

In the past two years since PIRC’s first survey on the issue, reporting has generally improved on most issues, though often from a very low base. However, in some sub-sectors disclosure has deteriorated. The report cites electronics and food producers as worsening in terms of environmental improvements, and packaging and healthcare as worsening in terms of target setting.

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