Ethical Performance
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companies slow to act on environment policies

October 2001

Three-quarters of European companies operating in more polluting sectors have now published policies on the environment, but less than half have put in place the systems needed to implement them, according to the organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

In a study of environmental policies, practices and reporting within 416 large companies in Europe, the OECD found that 75 per cent had environmental policy statements. But only 216 (52 per cent) had ‘implemented an environmental management system’. About 144 of these companies made use of standards such as ISO 14000.

The study looked at companies in ‘high environmental impact’ sectors including extractive industries, utilities, civil engineering, aerospace, metallurgy, vehicle manufacture and building materials.

Corporate responsibility: private initiatives and public goals found ‘significant variations’ among countries.

In Sweden and Finland, nine out of ten companies had environmental management systems and reported on their impact. In Germany, seven out of 10 did so while in Greece and Ireland, this figure dropped to two out of 10.

Electricity, mining and chemical companies were most likely to have an environmental management system in place.

Only 128 (41 per cent) of the 312 European firms with a published environmental policy reported on their performance.

Simon Propper, director at the UK consultants Environmental Context, commented that the superior environmental performance of Scandinavian companies was ‘largely due to the involvement of government’.

The report also looked at corporate environmental practices in Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Thailand. It found that while environmental management practices ‘seem to be taking off in Asia, with some economies adopting advanced practices … there is still some way to go.’

The OECD drew on research carried out by the Ethical Investment Research Service for analysis of European firms.

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