For the fourth time IÖW and future e.V. have tested the quality of German environmental reports in the "Ranking of Environmental Reporting". The results are published in the latest edition of the German business journal CAPITAL. 150 of the largest companies, according to employees and turn over, were examined (industry (100), banking (10), insurance agencies (10), trade (20), service (10). Once again the printing and publishing industry are in the lead. The winner of the Ranking 2000 is the report from Mohn Media and close behind comes the winner of the 1998 ranking, Axel Springer.
In recent years environmental reports have become the most significant instruments of communication for companies. However, environmental reports are not always of the same standard and this is why the Ecological Economics Research Institute (IÖW), Berlin and the industry association future e.V., Lengerich, have regularly assessed the quality of German environmental reports since 1994. Not only the contents, such as information on material and energy flow but also relevance and clarity are evaluated, and the text and visual layout are examined closely. The assessment is based on a check-list of criteria developed by IÖW/future. The results of ranking 2000, which was supported by the foundation Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt (DBU, German Federal Foundation for the Environment) as well as detailed analyses can be found on the Internet under
The core results show that when compared on an international scale, German companies take on the leading position in environmental reporting. At any rate, 44% of the largest German companies provide reports on the activities of the whole group concerning environmental issues, and this trend is increasing. The quality of voluntary environmental reporting is also improving. The strength of the environmental reports lies in how the organisation of the environmental management is described and how the use of resources, emissions and production waste are presented.
With the exception of Daimler Chrysler, Axel Springer, Henkel and Volkswagen, companies have until now hardly used the potential of the Internet for environmental reporting. Very few German companies appear to consider the possibility that environmental reports could be interesting for investors, business partners and clients within the industry. "There is hardly one environmental report that manages to combine environmental issues in an intelligent way with business chances and market developments. On the whole, the environmental understanding of many German companies only concerns their technical equipment and sites and this is reflected in the reports.", according to Annette Alpers, project leader at future e.V.
To what extent do companies integrate the model of "sustainable development" into their environmental reporting? According to Jens Clausen, IÖW expert in the field of environmental communication and in the ranking team since 1994 : "In most of the environmental reports, the term is still a simple catch phrase. Only very few, for example the Deutsche Bahn AG (German Federal Railway), succeed in planning a future model with concrete ideas and company activities. There is still considerable need for development in this area.
In order to improve this situation, IÖW is working with the Institut für Markt Umwelt Gesellschaft (Institute for market, environment and society) and pioneering companies in the field to develop criteria for a sustainability-reporting. The first sustainability-report produced according to these criteria was published by the WELEDA AG. The second from Wilkhahn will follow this month. Guidelines for companies are expected to be published by the end of 2000. This project is also being sponsored by the DBU.
Detailed analyses for ranking 2000 can be found on the Internet under www.ranking-umweltberichte.de. A workshop, "Ranking 2000 – Results and Trends" will take place in Hanover on 13.09.2000. For further information concerning the workshop, contact Dorothea Krax, future e.V. Tel.: 05481-9210-550. Fax.: -551, firstname.lastname@example.org.