July 30, 2008
Environment: Working Well – but Still More to Do
A NEW report from the Environment Agency says although businesses have cut waste by 14% in the last ten years, more work is needed by firms to improve their green credentials.
Some 284 firms - including major water companies - were fined in 2007, compared to 243 in 2000, the agency's Spotlight report on the environmental performance of businesses showed.
The 10th annual report also said illegal rubbish dumping remained a serious problem - with 277 illicit waste sites closed last year.
But serious pollution incidents are at their lowest since current records began in 2000, having almost halved to 462 cases last year.
And there has been a significant reduction in reports of illegal waste dumping, down from 4,627 in 2004/2005 to 1,208 at the end of 2006/2007.
The Spotlight study also showed businesses in the sectors regulated by the Environment Agency - which include chemicals, energy, farming, metals, minerals, nuclear, water firms and waste companies - have cut waste by around 14% since 1998.
Launching the report, Environment Agency chief executive Paul Leinster said many companies needed to do more - and that the credit crunch should not be an excuse for failing to protect the environment.
He said: "Business leaders may be concerned about the tough times ahead. But a difficult economic period is not an excuse for poor environmental performance.
"Progress can be made without stifling growth. That's because addressing environmental issues can protect a company's bottom line.
"Better energy efficiency alone could save UK businesses as much as pounds 1.8bn, while cutting the amount of waste produced could save them up to pounds 3bn in operating costs.
"But it is not just about saving money. There are growth opportunities open to companies too.
"The environmental goods and services markets in the UK, for example, will be worth pounds 34bn by 2010."
The report has been welcomed by business leaders in the region.
Manufacturers' organisation EEF said it highlighted the increasingly positive approach of business towards addressing environmental issues.
EEF regional manager, Tony Sarginson, said: "Relations between industry and the Environment Agency have come a long way over the last ten years. There is now a mutual recognition that a positive attitude towards environmental issues benefits both business and the environment.
"Not only do companies accept they have a responsibility to safeguard the environment but a positive approach can benefit the bottom line."
Despite the progress made so far, EEF believes more can be done by the Environment Agency and business.
In particular it believes the agency's positive approach of working with responsible businesses should be firmly filtered down to its local enforcement network.
EEF believes the agency should also focus its efforts on tackling the most persistent polluters and to acknowledge that significant emitters are not automatically significant polluters - an issue EEF says manufacturers are keen to work on with the Agency.
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