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Credit Crunch No Excuse To Stop Focusing on The Environment
Author: National Press Office
Date published: 23-Jul-2008
The past decade has seen significant improvements in environmental performance by many businesses in England and Wales. But there are still lots of companies that need to do more - and what progress has been made should not stop just because of a slowdown in the economy, the Environment Agency warned today.
Unveiling the Environment Agency’s annual Spotlight report on the environmental performance of business – which this year celebrates its 10th anniversary - Chief Executive Paul Leinster said: “This year’s findings show that we have been getting on with our job. Regulation has reduced the impact of industry’s activities on people and the environment.
“However, looking after the environment is a shared responsibility. Now we need to see more companies striving to do their bit by becoming greener, leaner and ready for the future.
“Business leaders may be concerned about the tough times ahead. But, a difficult economic period is not an excuse for poor environmental performance. As Spotlight demonstrates, progress can be made without stifling growth. That’s because addressing environmental issues can protect a company’s bottom line.
“Better energy efficiency alone could save UK businesses as much £1.8 billion, while cutting the amount of waste produced could save them up to £3 billion in operating costs. But it is not just about saving money. There are growth opportunities open to companies too. The environmental goods and services markets in the UK, for example, will be worth £34 billion by 2010.”
Among the key findings of Spotlight on business: 10 years of improving the environment are:
• Serious industrial pollution incidents in 2007 were the lowest since current records began in 2000, down 884 to 462
• 31 per cent of sites are now classified as well managed
• Businesses in sectors the Environment Agency has always regulated have reduced waste by about 14 per cent since 1998 - keeping 1.5 million tonnes of waste out of the waste chain.
But Spotlight also shows that:
• More than a third of sites are now rated as being poorly managed
• Illegal waste sites remain a problem – for legitimate waste management businesses, the environment and for the people living nearby. Last year, the Environment Agency closed 277 illegal waste sites in England and Wales
• More individuals and companies are being prosecuted for environmental offences than ever before. As a result of Environment Agency prosecutions in 2007, 284 companies were fined - compared to 243 in 2000.
Paul Leinster added: “Ten years ago when we published our first Spotlight report it was clear that businesses needed to clean up their act. In turn, we needed to develop a more effective, risk-based approach to regulation – making it easier for companies that take the environment seriously to get on with their work and tougher for those that flout the law.
“We have kept our side of the bargain and have cut through red tape. Changes we have made will save businesses about £25 million a year in administration costs by 2010. But if boardrooms want us to take a lighter touch we need to see further improvements from businesses. More companies need to look at their environmental impact as part of their overall corporate performance and more need to provide environmental information to decision makers and the public.
“Of the 550 FTSE all-share companies we looked at in the process of compiling this year’s Spotlight, only 42 per cent provided some form of environmental information. Of these just 15 per cent made a quantified disclosure in accordance with UK Government guidelines.”
Doc reference: 72/08