UK corporate environment spending reported

Gross expenditure over UK£4bn in 1997; nearly 30% of investments go on cleaner processes

UK production industry spent UK£4.27bn (euros 6.68bn) on environmental protection in 1997, equivalent to around 0.5% of gross domestic product (GDP), according to the country's environment ministry. The survey shows that 29% of capital expenditure went towards process improvements rather than end-of-pipe pollution controls.

According to the statistics, 73% of environmental spending by industry went on current expenditure, and 27% on capital expenditure. Within the capital expenditure component, approximately half went on air pollution control, particularly reflecting controls on emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). A further 24% of capital expenditure went on control of liquid discharges, 12% on solid wastes and 9% on soil and land protection.

Approximately half of the operating costs component was spent on companies' own account and half in payments to others. Nearly one-third of operating costs were for control of liquid discharges, while a quarter went on air pollution and 28% on soil and land protection.

Firms with 250 or more employees accounted for over two-thirds of total environmental expenditure, while the top ten industry sectors accounted for over 80% of spending. The top five, with spending as a proportion of the total, were chemicals (24%), food and beverages (13%), metals (11%), energy production (8%) and minerals, clay and cement (7%).

The survey is the second to be produced by the UK, following a pilot study based on 1994 data. The environment ministry cautions that comparisons between the two are not meaningful due to difficulties in data collection. It predicts that results will become more robust in future with further surveys.

Annual reporting of industry capital investment in end-of-pipe pollution is required of EU member states under a 1997 regulation (58/97). Though the reference year from which reporting should start was 1995, the UK won a derogation to 1998 along with seven other EU countries. The European statistical agency Eurostat is currently assessing how many other states will report data for 1997.

While most countries report operating as well as capital expenditure, the UK attempted to go further in its 1997 report by estimating spending on cleaner products and on the marginal costs of pollution control. In neither case was it successful.

A question on "green product" spending generated "very few responses," even from the refinery and petroleum sectors "that had specifically requested" its inclusion, the report says. An attempt to relate expenditure to the control of specific environmental impacts or polluting emissions was also unsuccessful due to various technical difficulties.

Follow Up:
UK environment ministry, tel: +44 171 890 3000. References: "Environmental Protection Expenditure by UK Industry: A Survey of 1997 Expenditure". Due to be posted on the ministry web site at What's New.

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