Should business be forced to publish their environmental impact?

By Laura Brown - 01 Apr 2011 10:9:1 GMT
Should business be forced to publish their environmental impact?

Within a decade consumers will be able to see which companies cause the most amount of damage to the environment if plans suggested by the man in charge of the UN's Green Economy Initiative are approved.

It is estimated through greenhouse gas emissions, pollution and deforestation the damage to the environment costs $2 to $4 trillion a year. Despite boasting of green credentials, with no agreed measurement of their impact in place, there is no way of recording which firms have the best, or worst, track record when it comes to their impact on the environment.

Pavan Sukhdev told Reuters that within 5 to ten years the rules will be in place to provide that measurement

''Today there is no disclosure requirement for companies of your cost to nature, or your cost to society. We're saying that it is possible to quantify this.''

The International Carbon Disclosure Project has led the way on quantifying corporate greenhouse gas emissions. The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales is investigating further ways of measuring wider impact. It is hoped this accounting system could be widened out across the globe via the International Accounting Standards Board.

Implementing the system could cost up to $30 million to develop.

The move would be welcomed by consumers. A survey by The Carbon Trust examined reactions to corporate promises of action on climate change and a green agenda. Only 7% of respondents in the UK believe a company's claims of action on climate change. 70% want businesses to mandatorily disclose their carbon emissions.

Peter Walshe, Global Director, BrandZ who conducted the survey, says, ''This new research builds on our own global analysis and shows that the public are in a very uncomfortable place regarding climate change, they understand the significance of the issue; they recognise that businesses' are a major emitter of emissions, but most are unclear as to the full extent - and what real action looks like.''

Harry Morrison, General Manager, the Carbon Trust Standard, added, ''It's clear that 'green washing'; over claiming; and excessive jargon has created mistrust of brands.  The good news is that by taking voluntary action now to measure, manage and reduce their impacts, there are huge opportunities for brands to stand out from the crowd.''