Big businesses fail green end of year report

Source: Friends of the Earth, 25 March 2002

(a press message issued in january 2002).

In what is a major end-of-year embarrassment for the Prime Minister, big businesses have failed to meet Tony Blair’s only environmental challenge: to publish environmental reports by the end of 2001.The Prime Minister issued the challenge in October 2000, but less than a quarter of the 350 largest British companies have met the target. Friends of the Earth responded today by calling on Blair to end the cosy-voluntary relationship with big business on green issues, and to start forcing companies to take action on the environment.
Public concern over the impact of big business on people and the environment has grown dramatically in recent years. A recent MORI poll, for example, found that 92% of the British public believemultinational companies should meet the highest human health, animal welfare and environmental standards wherever they are operating. The same poll also found that between 87% and 92% of people think the Government should protect the environment, employment conditions and health – even when it conflicts with the interests of multinationals [1].

Blair’s approach to big business on green issues has been to request them to change, rather than to force them. In keynote address to the CBI in October 2000, he told business leaders:

I am issuing a challenge, today, to all of the top 350 companies to be publishing annual environmental reports by the end of 2001". [2]

But the Government’s own figures indicate that only 79 of the top 350 companies (23%) are now producing substantive reports on their environmental performance, and only 24 (7%) of the other companies in the FTSE 350 have indicated their intention to do so. While 10% of other top 350 companies mention the environment in their annual reports, in many cases it is given only a few short paragraphs [3].

The new statistics will be cited as proof of how the Government’s voluntary approach on environmental reporting is failing, because 60 of the FTSE 350 were already producing environmental reports in 1998[4]. This means that of the 290 companies to whom the challenge was most relevant, only 19 (7%) have met the deadline.

Friends of the Earth today called on the Government to introduce mandatory reporting regime for business, as exists elsewhere in Europe. Denmark, Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands all have legislation in place forcing companies to report on their environmental performance.

Craig Bennett, Corporate Accountability Campaigner at Friends of the Earth said:

Producing social and environmental reports is the basic first step for companies who are serious about improving their green credentials. If they don’t know what impact they’re having,how can they start to do something about it?

The failure of big business to meet Downing Street’s deadline on reporting is a snub to Blair and two fingers to the environment. It’s time the Prime Minister ended his cosy relationship with big business, and started doing what governments should do: regulating to protect people and the environment.


[1] MORI poll conducted between 20-25th September 2001. For more information, see:

[2] Richer and Greener – Speech by The Prime Minister, to CBI / Green Alliance Conference on the Environment, Tuesday 24th October, 2000.

[3] House of Lords written answers, 4th December 2001. Col. WA132.

[4] Environmental and Social Reporting, Pensions and Investment Consultants (PIRC) 1998.