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CORPORATE ENVIRONMENTAL REPORTING


December 1, 2000
By Pulp & Paper Canada

A corporate environmental report can send a powerful message. It says, among other things: “Here is what our company is doing to protect the environment.” However, the contents of such a document can …

A corporate environmental report can send a powerful message. It says, among other things: “Here is what our company is doing to protect the environment.” However, the contents of such a document can range from meaningless policy statements without much detail, to a detailed description of a company’s environmental activities, its successes and shortfalls, and the data to back the claims. Openness is truly appreciated by the readers as it gives added credibility to the report and the company.

Many pulp and paper companies now produce corporate environmental reports for distribution to their employees, the investment community, creditors, and environmental organizations. The report can pack the following environmental messages depending on the reader:

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Here is an example of what such a report can contain:

Opening environmental statements from the president and vice-president of environment: These statements focus on the major environmental achievements of the year for the corporation. For example, these can include ISO 14001 registration of certain or all operations, ceasing certain undesirable environmental practices or the installation of modern pollution control technologies. The ongoing commitment to environmental protection and continual improvement should be clearly stated.

Statements from high level politicians (i.e., minister of the environment) or well known environmentalists or conservationists: This type of statement can add much credibility to the report. For example, this section can focus on current and upcoming regulations, the use of best-available-technology, as well as regional and national environmental issues facing the industry.

Environmental management: This section can include a brief description of the environmental management system structure that the company follows and how environmental responsibilities are fulfilled at all levels of the operations. A list of the ISO-14001 registered operations and dates of registration should also be included.

Environmental investments and costs: A description of the major environmental costs for the years, such as more environmentally-friendly bleaching technologies, water reduction projects, air pollution control, and effluent treatment upgrades.

Energy: This section focuses on fuel consumption and reduction programs, i.e., fossil fuel versus renewable energy, the use of by-products such as ash and yard scrapings in composts and fertilizers.

Forestry: Discuss the development of sustainable forestry practices and the certification of forest management operations and results of forestry audits compared to previous years.

Materials management and procurement: This section should discuss how the company considers products with lower overall environmental effects when making purchasing decisions or how suppliers with a certified environmental management system are preferred. Some examples include an increase in the use of recycled fibre, the use of more environmentally-friendly modes or strategies of transportation, an environmental screening mechanism for chemicals used in the mills.

Pulp and paper mills: There are many opportunities here to demonstrate environmental improvements. Some key indicators used are the following:

Water consumption per ton of saleable product;

Emissions to water in terms of chemical oxygen demand (COD), biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) and organo-chlorines (AOX) in effluent per ton of product;

Emissions to air in terms of sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxide and CO2 to atmosphere;

Waste sent to landfills.

A list of these figures can be included for all mills, along with the most significant environmental protection measures and future environmental targets.

Environmental permits, compensations and non-compliances: Some companies will report their compliance record (i.e., number of non-compliances with environmental regulations) as well as any ongoing or recent litigation and compensations given to certain groups for historical environmental damages. The status of remediation projects is also discussed.

The report should be written in simple language and, in some cases, explanations may be needed to educate the reader about certain concepts. One such example is how the use of fossil fuel is related to climate change. It is also important to translate technical data such as TSS, BOD, AOX, and TRS into everyday terms that people can understand.

If a corporation has several facilities, it is suggested that each production facility produce an environmental report to address local concerns. The neighboring communities will greatly appreciate this information. I am convinced that the reason for negative public perception is that people are not made aware of the environmental facts and improvements.

Most people will appreciate when large corporations admit that they are not perfect and there is environmental improvements needed. It shows a realistic understanding of environmental management and continual improvement. Here is an example of a perfectly sound statement to include in a corporate environmental report:

“…X % of regeneration sites were classified as good or excellent in privately owned forests. Deficiencies revealed by the audits were natural regeneration at sowing at excessively verdant sites, the wrong type of soil preparation and a long delay between felling and regeneration.”

USEFUL GUIDELINES

One of the most useful resources I have found is the Internet site for The International Corporate Environmental Reporting Site at www.enviroreporting.com. This site has examples of several corporate environmental reports from throughout the world. Guidelines for environmental reporting can be viewed by following the path International / All resources and then accessing the menu that says Resource Categories on the main page. Another useful site was developed by Global Reporting initiatives at www.globalreporting.org.

AudienceEnvironmental message
Employees Environmental vision and goals
Environmental achievements
Investment community Risk management
Cost savings through environmental
improvements
Creditors Risk management
Responsible environmental management
Industry associations Commitment to industry best practices and
standards
Environmental Commitment to continuous improvement
organizations Performance improvements


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