THE NETHERLANDS: Dutch investors launch corporate environmental performance database

An association of Dutch ethical investors has launched an online database to help investors assess and compare the environmental performance of key Dutch and international companies. A secondary aim of the database is to encourage wider publication of group level environmental reports by confronting companies with their record, or lack of it, in this area.

The Dutch Association of Investors for Sustainable Development (VBDO), claims the database is the first attempt to present an overview of the available environmental data and make a limited comparison between companies.

“This is the first database of its kind in Holland at least and we’re pretty sure there are no similar ones in Europe,” Piet Sprengers, Director of VBDO told edie. “We hope that when companies can compare the quality of information they provide and anyone can see the difference, they will be stimulated to give better quality information. It’s surprising that nobody else has done it, because the information’s already available and lots of people want it. On the other hand, it takes a long time to collect it together into a database. Most organisations collecting this data do it for commercial reasons. We make it available for free on the net.”

The database, which was set up with funding from the Dutch environment ministry, contains environmental statistics gleaned from leading Dutch and international companies’ environmental reports.

The primary aim is to help Dutch private and institutional investors to screen companies for ethical investment portfolios. The database does this by converting company information into a standardised form using international environmental reporting standards.

The next step is to put these figures into a form that allows them to be compared, either with that of other companies or with data for previous years. VBDO therefore created a series of environmental and financial performance indicators. Indicators include:

  • the percentage of a company’s sites which have environmental certification
  • the company’s total energy consumption
  • the amount of sustainable energy used
  • the amount of recycled material used
  • total water consumption
  • emissions from energy and transport
  • production processes’ potential to add to global warming

These allow energy consumption to be calculated per guilder sales or per employee, for example, and for different-sized companies to be compared.

Using the site, it soon becomes clear where a company’s environmental performance is improving or getting worse. The database also shows up what a company is or is not reporting. “Leaving information out is itself a form of information for investors,” says Sprengers. “The amount of information provided by a company says something about how seriously they are trying to tackle their problems.”

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