The fourth annual European Environmental Reporting
Awards were presented on 19 April by the European Commissioner
for the Environment, Margot Wallström, in the presence of
HRH Prince Laurent of Belgium and Caroline Jackson, president
of the European Parliament's Committee on the Environment, Public
Health and Consumer Policy.
Neste Fortum Group of Finland was judged best
overall winner. The broad scope of the environmental report, the
inclusion of financial information, the clarity of the report
and the extensive verification were important characteristics
of this report. The runner up for best environmental report was
United Utilities Plc. This report covers a broad scope and shows
clear links between the global, national and local context of
the relevant environmental aspects. United Utilities was the winner
of the ACCA's UK environmental reporting awards.
The best first time reporter was Grundfos A/S
of Denmark. The clarity of the report and the links between environmental
aspects and indicators were impressive characteristics for a first
A special commendation was made to DaimlerChrysler
AG of Germany for their innovative way of communicating their
environmental policies and performance. Together with the more
typical reporting section, a magazine-style section was included
in the environmental report presenting background information
in the form of interviews and journalistic reports.
THE 1999 SHORT
The national winner from each country's environmental
reporting scheme was submitted into the European Award scheme.
In most cases, a second winning environmental report was also
submitted. The full list of reports that were submitted into the
1999 scheme is:
BelgiumCimenteries CBR SA
DenmarkGrundfos A/S; DONG
FinlandNokian Tyres; Neste Fortum Group
FranceElf Atochem; Renault
GermanyAxel Springer Verlag AG; DaimlerChrysler
ItalyACEA Spa; FALCK Group
SwitzerlandCredit Suisse Group; Sulzer
UKUnited Utilities Plc; Bovince Limited
The judges were greatly encouraged by the inclusion
of two environmental reports from the banking sector. They were:
ING-bank, (The Netherlands) and Credit Suisse (Switzerland).
The banks attempted to address their "indirect"
impacts via the services they provide such as the banking activities,
their asset management and their assurance activities. Examples
include the consideration of environmental aspects in providing
credit facilities, loans, leases and offering opportunities to
invest in green funds. The more obvious "direct" impacts
of any business such as energy, waste, transportation and building
issues were also addressed.
The environmental report published by Bovince
Limited (UK) is an excellent example of showing what an SME can
achieve. With only 57 employees, Bovince has implemented both
ISO 14001 and EMAS environmental management systems, ISO 9001
quality standard and the UK Government's Greenhouse Gas (CO2)
indicator (published by the Department of Environment, Transport
and the RegionsDETR). Bovince Limited's report also includes
information on stakeholders and their complaints.
(a) Integration: Evidence should be provided to show
how a company has incorporated environmental issues throughout
the core of business management and operations, including all
company policies and corporate strategy. Other evidence includes
the assignment of a Director with responsibility for the environment
and case studies from different parts of the business (for example:
transport, finance, procurement, corporate planning), commenting
on how the environment impacts on their decision-making processes.
(b) Use of internet: The internet is a medium
that enables users of information to obtain relevant and detailed
information when required. Companies should begin to use the internet
as an additional and quick method of disseminating environmental
information in a paperless format. The increasing use of the internet
should lessen the demand for hard copies of reports and thus in
itself be environmentally friendly. Use of the internet also facilitates
communication with different categories of stakeholders, and the
website should be referred to in all corporate publications.
(c) Dual approach: The judges agreed that
those environmental reports which adopted a tiered approach to
their environmental performance reporting added value to the report
and set in context a clearer picture of how the company impacted
on its environment at both the micro and macro level. United Utilities,
for example, addressed their key impacts in the regional, national
and corporate level contexts. By linking the local, national and
global issues, readers of environmental reports obtain an overall
view of the implications of the company's environmental impacts.
(d) Beyond environment: Pressure is mounting
for companies to widen their scope for corporate public accountability,
and many are responding by including social data in their environmental
reports, preferably through a well managed process of stakeholder
dialogue. Examples of social measures include: employee statistics
and conditions and community support and involvement.
The next step beyond environmental and social
reporting is sustainability reporting which involves integrating
environmental, social and economic performance data and measures
to produce one report. The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI),
launched in March 1999 to provide globally applicable guidelines
for companies preparing sustainability reports, will issue revised
guidelines in summer 2000.
(e) Accounting principles: Generally, very
little information on the underlying accounting principles is
included in the environmental report. In order to be able to make
accurate interpretations of the data provided an explanation has
to be given in relation to the underlying accounting process and
the assumptions made. Also, explanations of variations in environmental
performance can be further improved.
(f) External verification: The scope of
verifications differs. In general, the quality of external verification
is poor. Verification statements with a limited scope that enhances
only the trail from accounting records to environmental reports
do not add much assurance. The lack of site visits and therefore
the lack of assurance on whether the accounting records at the
sites are an accurate reflection of actual performance is a main
omission in existing verifications. Some reports include "independent
views" (for example, from non-governmental organisations)
but these views are not a credible replacement for verification
It should be noted that the judges do not only
assess whether or not the environmental report has been verified,
but also the scope of the verification statement.