UK firms’ eco awareness growing, but slowly

Two surveys of top UK businesses have shown slow but sure growth in companies' environmental awareness. Both surveys sampled the FTSE 100 and the FTSE mid-250 and produced results for 1998 compared to previous years.

The first survey, from Business in the Environment (BIE), divided corporate environmental engagement into ten categories:

  • corporate policy
  • board members
  • targets
  • objectives
  • stakeholder
  • employee
  • stewardship
  • audit
  • environmental management systems
  • suppliers

The participating companies assessed themselves against these aspects of environmental management. The FTSE 100 performed between 1 to 10% better across all categories than last year. The FTSE mid-250 had improved similarly but 10 to 40% fewer companies were able to include themselves in each category.

Across all 350 companies, the number of environmentally-based supplier and employee programmes has improved most significantly. At the same time, respondents were least likely to take the time and cost to engage suppliers in environmental policy.

Analysis by sector showed that the utility companies scored consistently highly with least variation. “The utilities sector is moving forward together,” the BiE said. This reflects regulatory requirements in this sector for reporting and disclosure of environmental policy. The IT, Electronics and Communications sector scored both the lowest averages and the widest range.

The second survey was undertaken by The Pensions & Investments Research Consultants (PIRC). The results were broadly encouraging, the PIRC concludes, although the pace is frustratingly slow.

Hinting that quantity does not necessarily mean quality, the PIRC stated: “The overall improvement in reporting levels includes companies that provide a one sentence statement in their report and accounts, to those giving a fully fledged and comprehensive report with external verification. There is no room for complacency.”

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