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UK firms paying more attention to environment - survey

UK firms paying more attention to environment - survey
LONDON - British companies and investors are paying greater attention to the impact of environmental responsibility on the performance of companies, according to a survey released yesterday.
The survey ranked a power company, a gas firm and a U.S. computer company as the most environmentally responsible corporations, and indicated fund managers are giving greater consideration to environmental risk for their investment decisions. But the authors of the survey said although football club Manchester United had joined the ranks of the environmentally responsible, too many of the UK\'s midcap sized companies are not paying attention to the benefits of taking environmental responsibility. Business in the Environment (BiE), a campaign for corporate environmental responsibility set up in 1989, said the average overall score for companies taking part in its sixth Index of Corporate Environmental Engagement was 65 percent, up from 61 percent in last year\'s survey. BiE said the survey compares the extent to which companies are involved in environmental management and their impact on the environment in key areas, such as global warming. \"The progress that\'s been made over the (last) five or six years seems to be quite extraordinary ... to the extent that five years ago environmental issues were marginalized, now it\'s part of mainstream management,\" said Derek Higgs, senior advisor to investment bank UBS Warburg and chairman of BiE. SCOTTISHPOWER TOPS SURVEY The BiE said an increase in participation in the survey also indicated the leading companies were taking environmental issues more seriously. BiE said 83 out of the FTSE 100 companies participated in this year\'s survey, five more than last year, and 206 companies took part from the FTSE 350 index. Topping the survey\'s rankings were ScottishPower , Lattice and U.S. multinational International Business Machines Corp. . Next in the pecking order were Shields Environmental and Anglo-Dutch food giant Unilever . Higgs said a significant feature was recognition from many companies in the financial sector of the relevance of the \"indirect\" impact of environmental policy on active portfolio management. He said the finding showed the increasing importance of the issue to the City, and backed up other BiE research indicating a high placing in the environmental index had a strong correlation with a less volatile share price. \"It comes back to the central theme, that superior economic performance and shareholder returns comes from good management, and good management looks at all sorts of things, certainly including managing the risks to the environment,\" Higgs said. The survey showed performance on global warming issues had improved in the past year, with companies scoring an average of 65 percent in this area from 60 percent a year ago. But 22 percent of participants were still not setting any global warming targets, and a quarter of the respondents had not shown any improvement in the past year. The survey showed supply chain management also remained \"a major headache\" for most companies. It showed chemicals and steel sectors both scored low in this area, even though there were high potential risks in both areas. BiE said the major UK oil companies, which are often targeted by environmental campaigners and have had problems in past years, continue to score highly in its survey. Both BP and Shell were ranked in the top 10 companies in the index, which BiE said indicates both are global leaders in their industry. It said smaller companies in the industry lag behind. REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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