Indicator 1.1

Issue: Corporate commitment to environmental responsibility and performance

Indicator: Board-level responsibility, training and reporting

Why is this important?

The business community's response to environmental issues has changed dramatically over recent decades. From the publication of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring in 1962, through to the Earth Summit in 1992, the business-environmental arena was typified by unending exchanges of accusation, insult and mutual misunderstanding. Confrontation was the name of the only game in town as Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, WWF and others slugged it out with increasingly powerful multinationals. By the mid-1980s this began to change. More and more companies were moving from hostility and 'resistant adaptation' to environmental legislation to recognising many of the 'business case' arguments outlined above from adopting a much more proactive, positive and 'beyond compliance' approach to environmental management and performance. [2]

However, whilst leading and more forward-looking companies are committed to making their operations more sustainable, others have not yet accepted the business case for improving environmental performance. The environment can be sidelined to some out-of-the-way department with no clout and no budget. Reporting for many of these companies is virtually non-existent. This is one of the reasons why the UK Government is still threatening to legislate to get FTSE 350 companies to report. With no policies, no targets and no direct board responsibility defined for taking the lead in and being accountable for the company's environmental performance, little action beyond legislative compliance is taken. Commitment at the top is essential to drive through real change. As are programmes to ensure key staff, if not all staff, are made aware of the main sustainability challenges facing their firm and their role and responsibility to find solutions and ways to reduce impacts and improve performance. This module tries to capture this commitment with the following three indicators:


How will the indicator be measured?

Board Level Commitment. Board level responsibility for the environment is typically disclosed in one or more of the following company documents: the annual report, environmental report or sustainability report if produced. If the information is not disclosed within these documents, the company will be asked directly via the supermarket questionnaire.

Awareness Raising. In an ideal world all staff would receive some sort of environmental awareness training - covering the key impacts of the company's activities and operations (many listed within their significant aspects register if ISO14000 registered); the company's policies and procedures relating to environmental performance; accountabilities and responsibilities relating to the environment/environmental performance and risk and their own roles and responsibilities in terms of contributing to delivering the company's policy, and where relevant, targets.

Some companies, such as Interface - the world's largest manufacturer of carpet tiles and floor coverings, have committed to ensuring their entire workforce of several thousand employees undergo a TNS (The Natural Step) sustainability training and awareness programme. It is possible. However, it is appreciated that some staff have a greater potential and role and to play in helping the company deliver its environmental targets. Also, that there are degrees of 'training' and 'awareness raising' that can be carried out. Consequently, it is hoped that we can capture at least some sense of a deeper commitment to raising awareness and commitment to environmental performance throughout an organisation by using data on the percentage of training courses that include an environmental component/module


It is acknowledged that it will be difficult to ensure that consistent and comparable data is captured for this indicator. For example, the whole population of 'training courses' in itself may be hard to determine, and within the courses identified, establishing what qualifies as 'an environmental component or module' may be equally difficult to capture. Whilst some courses might just inform participants that the company has an environmental policy (and that they should read it), others may go into far more detail and background. Helping participants make the link between their everyday roles - in purchasing, marketing and sales, maintenance etc, impacts and what they may be able to do to reduce them.

Reporting - again, a relatively straightforward indicator to establish. The company either is or is not a reporter! Hard copy or web based reporting, annual or periodic, are all indicative of a commitment to report. However, the quality of the report - clearly stated policies, management structures and accountabilities, the setting of targets, and commitment to report progress against those targets, will also be assessed to determine whether individual companies are approaching environmental management in a truly integrated and strategic way.


[2] ie good environmental management lowers business risk, can result in cost saving opportunities being found and thereby enhance profits, attract and retain the best people, attract new customers and retain existing markets and so on.

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