EU environmental reporting award to expand

Rules will have to change when German firms join European scheme, say organisers

As the second annual European Environmental Reporting Awards were announced today in Brussels, its organisers have confirmed that the rules are set to be changed to accommodate German firms. The UK-based Association of Certified Chartered Accountants (ACCA) - one of four national accountancy organisations that sponsors the awards - told ENDS Daily that it would be necessary to alter the criteria for entering the competition when German and French firms participate next year.

The basic principle behind environmental reporting - or accounting - is that companies should include information on their environmental as well as financial activities when producing annual reports. A European awards scheme was launched last year (ENDS Daily 27 May 1997).

National approaches to corporate environmental reporting can vary quite considerably, according to ACCA, which says that it will now need to take a second look at how the competition is run.

"I think the criteria will be re-visited. Germany operates very much on the basis of scientific management of the environment. You have a highly scientific process of input/output analysis and that tends to characterise many of their reports," explained ACCA's head of technical services, Roger Adams. Such an approach is not a feature of environmental accounting schemes in many other western European states and north America.

But while Germany's arrival will mean having to review the contest's rules, the organisers also suggest that the participation of the EU's largest member state will boost the its credibility. Of the more than 1000 companies currently registered under the EU's voluntary 'eco-management and audit scheme', for example, well over half are German.

ACCA says that incorporating France into the awards scheme will present the judges with different challenges. "I think the problem with France will be actually getting more companies to report. Those that do report tend to do it in a fairly conventional style, but there aren't many of them at the moment," Mr Adams explained.

The winner of this year's European Environmental Reporting Award was revealed today by EU environment commissioner Ritt Bjerregaard. The first prize went jointly to UK telecommunications giant BT and Danish biotechnology company Novo Nordisk.

The result was doubly satisfying for Novo Nordisk, which also won last year's competition. Some critics have argued that giving the top prize to the same company two years running will not encourage new companies to take part, but ACCA President Michael Foulds disagrees. "You can't adjust your criteria to make somebody else win," he says. "The person who wins is the person who best satisfies the criteria, so well done them."

Follow Up:
ACCA, tel: +44 171 396 6855.

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