Many European chemicals firms already publish environmental data under guidelines originally issued by Cefic in 1993, but the indicators they use vary from country to country. Cefic's new rules will harmonise the way data is presented and allow it to publish statistics for the industry at a European level.
Cefic has already started publishing annual figures on the industry's energy consumption and consumption per unit of product. It claims that the new indicators - to be phased in over the next three years - will put the European chemicals industry ahead of any other industry sector in terms of environmental reporting.
The association hopes that this apparent willingness to make an effort on improving environmental performance will be "recognised" by policy makers. Stuart Aaron, in charge of the guidelines project, confirmed that the chemicals industry was "very interested" in making voluntary agreements on energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions.
Jim Whiston of chemicals firm ICI said that the detailed reporting would allow companies to benchmark their performance and was a first step towards setting targets to reduce environmental damage.
Two unresolved issues remain, however. Not all Cefic members have signed up to the reporting scheme, although Cefic claims the "bulk of the European chemicals industry is committed to it". Nor is there a guarantee that data will be checked by external bodies.
However, Cefic's director general, Hugo Lever, said he would press member bodies to agree on a data auditing process. "I personally believe there is no way out," he said. "You have to have verification because we want to improve performance and the confidence in that improved performance."
The core environmental criteria to be reported from 2000 are emissions to air of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides; and discharges to water of phosphorus, nitrogen compounds and chemical oxygen demand. The following year, emissions of volatile organic compounds to air and heavy metals to water will be added to the list. In 2002 waste management criteria will be included.
The guidelines include a list of "optional" criteria - on which Cefic could not get full agreement among its members. These include particulates, heavy metals and carbon monoxide emissions to air, certain other water discharges and the use of natural resources.
Cefic, tel: +32 2 676 7211.
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