Seven years to create, ten days to destroy. Say goodbye to OFR

It's not often the word "jubilant" is used to describe the mood of Tony Juniper. As Director of Friends of the Earth, he's more commonly scowling at government thinking, and generally bemoaning UK environmental policy.

But the recent success on climate change in Montreal last month allowed everybody, Tony included, a moment to smile. More than 180 nations finally managed to agree a last-minute deal on global warming, which will force a rather humiliated George W Bush to sign up for future talks on the subject. The meeting had as many dramas and cliffhangers as a second-rate soap opera – but it was tremendous news for the environment.

Not so tremendous was the news that came 12 days earlier, when our future PM decided it would be a good idea to scrap the eagerly anticipated Operating and Financial Review (OFR). Gordon Brown’s decision to remove the so-called “gold plating” and “unnecessary red tape” will prove disastrous. By cuddling up to Digby Jones at the CBI and refusing to accept the importance of this type of reporting – not only on the environment but also on business – the Chancellor’s early Christmas present to business, which many commentators have described as “cavalier”, leaves the Government’s approach to corporate governance confused at best.

The fact that the green brigade, business leaders, city investors and trade unions have all united in attack on the issue, says it all.

Large sums of money have already been wasted gearing up for OFR requirements – requirements that are “not too difficult to implement” according to many business analysis experts. As part of the backlash, Friends of the Earth is now considering legal action (see the news story on page 6).

What I’d really like to see now is the 1,200 quoted companies that were obliged to accommodate the OFR and start reporting by April this year, take things forward regardless. Most of the stuff proposed in the OFR rules is very sensible, so why not continue as before?

Surely Friends of the Earth would be better off using its clout and argument to ensure that companies do the right thing, as opposed to running for the court house. Now that obligation has been thrown out of the equation, green campaigners must get back on track and continue with the persuasion tactics which have succeeded in encouraging firms that being well behaved really does serve their long-term business interests.

I hope you all had a good Christmas break. As you can see, the Environment Business team has been busy making your favourite environment journal even better. I hope you like the new look and find the new sector-focused structure helpful.

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