Top UK companies reject Government plea to disclose environmental and social performance

Source: Environmental Context, 12 July 2001

The UK’s top companies have rejected Government demands to disclose environmental and social responsibility information, according to a survey by corporate social responsibility consultants Environmental Context and design consultancy SalterBaxter.
For over six years the UK Government has been pushing companies to report. Last year, prime minister Tony Blair called on all large UK-listed companies to publish an environmental report by the end of this year. In a speech to the CBI in October 2000 he said: "I am issuing a challenge today, to all of the top 350 companies to be publishing annual environment reports by the end of 2001."

A survey of the top 200 FTSE companies shows:
97 do not disclose any information on their social and environmental performance
Only 54 companies produce stand-alone reports covering environmental and
social issues.
Only 16 companies said they would produce a report for the first time this year.

"Only a handful of non-reporting companies say they will report this year. This leaves the total well short of the prime minister’s target, " says Nigel Salter, director of SalterBaxter.

Both Tony Blair and Michael Meacher, environment minister, have been encouraging companies to report, with thinly-veiled threats of legislation if they don’t comply. If this happens companies could be forced to disclose information on issues such as polluting emissions and ethical behaviour.

"It appears that companies resent attempts by Government to browbeat them into reporting. They see this as simply scratching the backs of the politicians and are calling the Government’s bluff on threatened legislation. These companies don’t yet recognise the many benefits, of taking the initiative and telling people what they are doing for the environment and society," says Simon Propper, director of Environmental Context.