Environment Law Update: Miscellaneous 5

United Kingdom

United Kingdom

Environmental reporting

Sir John Harman, Chairman of the EA has stated that annual environmental reporting should be compulsory for all FTSE listed companies. He said that they should include information on how they identify and manage environmental risks, and report environmental performance against published targets. Despite the Prime Minister's November 2000 challenge to start reporting, fewer than 80 of the FTSE top 350 companies in the UK currently mention the environment in annual reporting, which is considerably lower than most other EU countries. The Government is currently examining a review of company law, launched in June 2001, which recommends disclosure of certain environmental information in company reports. In France and Denmark all publicly quoted firms are required by law to disclose data on environmental impact in annual financial reports.
(EA News Release, 5 April 2002)

The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) award scheme for corporate environmental reporting has made its annual award for the best sustainability reports. Nine organisations were presented with awards, which have been in existence for ten years. However, the structure was changed in 2001 to take account of the increasing awareness of the environmental, social and economic impacts of business. Under the title ‘The ACCA Awards for Sustainability Reporting', the new scheme includes three different award categories: the ACCA UK Environmental Reporting Awards, the ACCA Social Reporting Awards and a new category, the ACCA Sustainability Reporting Awards. Scottish Power won the environment category with its report praised for its inclusion of progress on previous targets and definition of future ones.
(ACCA, April 2002)

Environmental management

The Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) has launched a system to enable companies to quantify their sustainable development performance. Key environmental indicators used are resource use, emissions, effluent and waste. The system calculates the environmental burden of each product by using a weighted calculation of its acidification, global warming, damage to human health, ozone depletion and photochemical ozone formation potential. The National Chemicals Industries Association (CIA) has pledged to recommend that its members should use the system.
(IChemE, May 2002)

Corporate social responsibility

Notice has been given in Parliament of a Private Members Bill aimed at improving Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). It was launched by a coalition of environment, human rights and development organisations, known as the CORE Coalition, which claims that the legislation has been drafted in response to what it sees as the failure of the current voluntary approach, advocated by most businesses and the Government. Among the proposals in the Bill are: to make provision for certain companies to produce and publish reports on environmental, social and economic and financial matters; to require those companies to consult on large projects; to specify certain duties and liabilities of directors; and to establish a new regulatory body to oversee environmental and social standards. The Corporate Responsibility Bill is expected to gain widespread cross-party backing from MPs, 150 of whom have already signed an Early Day Motion in support of the principles outlined in the Bill. The coalition are urging the Government to adopt proposals from the Bill within a new Company Law Bill, expected to be tabled within the next two years.
(House of Commons, 12 June 2002)

The Government has published its second annual CSR report. It claims that around half of consumers have identified that the social responsibility is important when choosing to buy, and 20% will boycott or select products on social grounds. The report also sets out the Government's new strategy to promote responsibility at every level of business and reviews all the action undertaken by government in recent years in this area. It acknowledges the role smaller companies can play in their local community, as well as large, multi-nationals.
(DTI, 14 May 2002)

Morley, the UK Fund Management Company, has launched a sustainability matrix, which rates FTSE 100 companies according to social and environmental criteria. Business sustainability is rated A-E, depending on factors such as renewable energy use, healthcare and education. Management vision was scored 1-5, with all companies falling within the 2-4 range. The aim of grading companies in this way was to provide clear and transparent analysis of companies' social and environmental policies and to encourage improvements, to protect and increase shareholder value and to continue to raise awareness of CSR.
(Morley Fund Management Press Release, 13 May 2002)

DEFRA have made available £50,000 for the development of guidance on CSR management and reporting for the financial services sector. The guidelines will be the first of their kind to be developed in the UK and are being prepared by the FORGE Group which consists of representatives from the banking and insurance industries. The guidance is aimed at providing help to financial services in managing and reporting on CSR and will include input from regulators, trade associations and NGOs.
(DEFRA, 23 April 2002)


Updated guidance on habitats legislation has been produced jointly by the EA, English Nature and Countryside Council for Wales. The revised guidance applies to both new, and the review of existing consents, under the Conservation (Natural Habitats etc) Regulations (SI 1997 No 3055). The ‘EU Habitats Directive and Regulations process handbook for Agency Permissions and Activities' covers generic policy, process and technical guidance. It also provides a flow chart to show how the various documents link together.
(EA, June 2002)

The Weeds Act

Under the Weeds Act 1959, the Secretary of State can serve a notice on an occupier of land on which any of the five weeds, spear thistle, creeping or field thistle, curled dock, broad-leaved dock and common ragwort are growing, requiring the occupier to take action to prevent the weeds from spreading. There are also additional powers to enable clearance of the weeds and recovery of the costs. The most common problem encountered concerns ragwort, which can be fatal for cattle, horses and donkeys if ingested. Two new booklets giving advice and guidance on The Act have now been published by DEFRA. "The Weeds Act 1959 - Preventing the Spread of Harmful Weeds" gives general guidance on the provisions of The Act and how DEFRA carries out its responsibilities. The second booklet "The Weeds Act 1959 - Guidance Note on the Methods that can be used to Control Harmful Weeds" gives technical advice on the various control methods available to deal with the five weeds covered in the Weeds Act.
(DEFRA, June 2002)

Areas of outstanding natural beauty

All local authorities responsible for the 37 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) in England have a new statutory duty under the Countryside and Rights of Way (CROW) Act 2000 to produce a management plan. The first management plan in the country has now been published by the Suffolk Coasts and Heaths AONB. It brings together all the key stakeholders, involved in the AONB including local authorities, national government agencies, conservation groups and farmers to devise a plan of action for the area. The Countryside Agency is offering funding of up to 75% for the costs of managing AONBs and producing management plans. It has published advice for local authorities and others on how to prepare plans. Grants are also available to put projects into practice on the ground.
(The Countryside Agency News Release, 10 June 2002)


A business brief has been made available to provide further information on the changes to be made to the aggregates levy following consultation with the quarrying and aggregates industry. The main legislation for the levy, which began on 1 April 2002, is contained in the Finance Act 2001. The latest changes relate to the definition of aggregate. All rock used as aggregate is now included whether it has been crushed or not. A number of other changes were also made and most of these came into effect from the start of the levy in April 2002. These include changes to the treatment of industrial mineral waste and to the definition of dimension stone.
(HM Customs & Excise 27 March 2002)

Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund

The Countryside Agency, English Nature and English Heritage are to distribute £6 million from the Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund (ALSF) in the coming year. The funding is to be used to alleviate some of the adverse environmental effects of aggregate extraction, including benefiting biodiversity and combating increases in traffic.
(English Nature Press Release, 15 April 2002)

DEFRA have announced that £58.6 million will be available from the Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund to reduce the impacts of quarrying on the environment. The funding will be used to improve areas where aggregate extraction has taken place, reduce demand for primary materials by research into alternatives and reuse of aggregates, and promote new methods for extraction and transporting aggregates. The Fund will finance projects for the coming two years and will be distributed through the Countryside Agency, English Heritage, English Nature, WRAP and various government departments.
(DEFRA News Release, 11 April 2002)


The House of Commons' Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee has announced an inquiry into the role of DEFRA. Its aims will include determining whether the Secretary of State's vision for DEFRA is appropriate, and what progress has been made towards meeting that vision. It will also examine whether farming, food, environmental and conservation concerns, and rural affairs are each given proper weight. The Committee invited, by Friday 31 May, written evidence from interested parties addressing these terms of reference.
(House of Commons Press Notice, 3 may 2002)

DEFRA has published its first departmental report since its formation in 2001. The report outlines the work it undertakes, together with its visions and aims and objectives for the future. Among the targets for the future are to create better integration of different work areas to produce a more unified structure for the delivery of policies. Also reported are achievements for 2001 to 2002, how its budget is spent and its performance over the last year.
(DEFRA May 2002)


The DTLR has been restructured, with a new Department for Transport being set up to focus solely on transport issues. Most of the other responsibilities of the former DTLR will be brought into the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and put together with his existing related responsibilities for social exclusion and the regions, including the Government Offices in the Regions. The Deputy Prime Minister will also assume responsibility for implementing the Regional Government and Local Government White Papers. Transport safety and other health and safety at work issues will remain with the new Department for Transport, although there is to be a review of the structure and departmental responsibilities for these issues.
(10 Downing Street Newsroom, 29 May 2002)

Environmental taxes

The CBI has published a report entitled ‘Green Taxes: Rhetoric and Reality' which urges the Government to rethink its policy on environmental taxes. The report shows that green taxes cost business £14 billion per year and this has risen by 15% in the last five years. Although the report supports the use of tax to promote environmental goals, it voices concerns about the design and implementation of these measures.
(CBI, April 2002)

European Union

Corporate social responsibility

A new European Commission survey of the social and environmental activities of over 7,600 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in 19 European countries has found that around half engage in CSR. However, the proportion currently addressing environmental problems, beyond compliance with regulations, was limited and ethical considerations were not a driver for the environmental responsibility. In most cases, SMEs engaged in socially responsible activities on an occasional and one-off basis, without relating them to the core business strategy. Three-quarters of enterprises identified business benefits from having an ethical policy. Although political discussions in this area have mainly concentrated on large enterprises to date, the report's findings are likely to contribute to a forthcoming Communication on CSR expected later in 2002.
(European Commission, May 2002)

EU enlargement

The European Commission has released a progress report on the enlargement process and the environment. Thirteen countries have applied for EU membership and the EU has opened accession negotiations with all of them except Turkey. The report is in the form of a questions and answers guide. It covers EU support and the state of the environment in the candidate countries, as well as the extent to which these countries will have to comply with environment laws.
(European Commission, May 2002)

Soil protection

The European Commission has issued a communication on protecting soil from erosion, contamination and other environmental threats. It represents the first step in a strategy to protect soils in the EU from degradation. The Communication describes the functions and policies relevant to soil, the main threats to it and relevant current EU policy. It includes a promise to present a thematic strategy on soil protection in 2004. This will consist of legislation for information gathering and monitoring systems on soil, as well as setting out detailed recommendations for future measures and actions.
(COM (2002) 179, 16 April 2002)


State of the environment

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has issued a report setting out the state of the world's environment. The ‘Third Global Environmental Outlook Report' calls on nations to take effective action at the UN Earth Summit in Johannesburg in August 2002, after warning that the planet is at a crucial crossroads. The report covers world environmental trends over the passed 30 years as well as setting out four environmental scenarios for the next 30 years. These are based on markets first, policy first, security first and sustainability first approaches. It says that markets first policies most closely resemble the current global situation, while policy first assumes stronger environmental legislation. Furthermore, it states that it is not too late to avert global environmental disaster, if the world acts decisively and globally.
(UNEP, May 2002)