Ethical Performance
inside intelligence for responsible business


Negative corporate impacts cost the earth $2.2trillion

March 2010

The environmental damage caused by the world's 3000 largest companies has been estimated at $2.2trillion (£1.4tn, €1.6tn) by the United Nations.

If large companies, including many from the Dow Jones and FTSE indexes, were forced to pay for the cost of pollution and other damage to the environment, over a third of their profits would be lost, according to research conducted for the UN by the UK-based consultancy Trucost.

The report, due to be published this summer, says the cost of environmental impacts produced by the companies concerned is the equivalent of up to seven per cent of their combined turnover.

Impact varies by industry, however. The most damage is being done by the utilities sector, which - with environmental costs of $420billion – is costing the planet twice as much as industrials, and 20 times that of technology firms.

Taken into account in the figure are negative impacts such as greenhouse gas emissions from operations, waste and water pollution, but not the consumption of goods or the societal impacts of environmental degradation such as the displacement of communities.

The most expensive activity was greenhouse gas emissions, which accounted for more than half of the total.

United Nations | Global | Externalised Costs

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