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Green goal

It's easy to dismiss the Earth Summit in South Africa as just another bureaucrat's junket. However, this particular gathering does provide an opportunity to address one of the most important issues facing businesses today.

In October 2000, Tony Blair said he wanted to see every FTSE-350 company produce an environmental report within 15 months. Today only 80 have done so.

The DTI’s modernising company law white paper is likely to lead to what has been an ineffective carrot becoming a stick, but the trickle of green reports is unlikely to become a flood anytime soon.

All this matters when you bear in mind the fact that, according to research by Trucost, no company in the country would make a profit if you reflected the full cost of the impact it has on the environment in its bottom line.

Measuring the environmental impact of every part of a company’s business would be a massive extension of current reporting regime – but, in societal terms, it would undoubtedly further corporate transparency. And at a time when a lack of transparency, accountability and – let’s not mince words here – fraud at some of the world’s biggest businesses is hurting companies across the world, there seems little point in picking and choosing the areas where greater transparency might be appropriate. Such a drive has to be comprehensive.

Putting a cost on a company’s full environmental impact has to be the goal.

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