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Current Practice in Environmental Reporting: The Chemicals Industry

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Environmental reporting is still in its infancy, having emerged only in the latter part of the 1980s. Companies are under increasing pressure to be transparent and accountable in the whole spectrum of their business. In recent years, a number of companies have seen the need to introduce environmental reporting, placing environmental information into the public domain. Such reporting may be within the traditional annual report, or presented in a separate corporate environmental report (CER).

This handbook is directed both at companies that are already providing CERs, and which wish to be able to compare their efforts with others in the same sector, and also at those companies that have not yet taken the step. They will be able to find some guidance on how to set about it, avoiding some of the pitfalls experienced by those already involved. It will also be of interest to the wide range of stakeholders concerned with corporate environmental performance and to the many verifiers involved.

There is much detailed information in the document, and it is worth studying by those responsible for generating and using company environmental information, as well as those responsible for the policy of their company.

The fundamental task of a CER is to provide an environmental ‘bill of health’ for a company, in the same way that the annual report provides a financial bill of health. It covers the provision of environmental information by management for the use of multiple stakeholder groups on the environmental status and performance of a company.

In addition to providing an overall policy statement, these reports give details of resource consumption and environmental impacts.

The unique aspect of this particular survey of environmental reporting is that it provides an in-depth appraisal of CERs from one individual sector, the chemicals industry. The main objectives of the survey are to examine current practice in environmental reporting and to identify the areas in need of improvement. A ranking of CERs is provided, the range and quality of reporting being determined by establishing the degree of utilisation of a comprehensive set of environmental performance indicators (EPIs). Geographically, the main focus is on Western Europe and North America, although CERs were obtained from other countries, namely, Japan and South Africa.

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