Big business required to disclose its environmental impacts

30th September 2014

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Emily Brough

A directive requiring large companies to report environmental impacts as part of their mainstream annual financial reporting was adopted in Europe yesterday.

The directive will apply to listed companies with over 500 employees, and firms deemed to be of “significant public relevance” because of the nature of their business, their size or their corporate status.

The EU council estimates that around 6,000 companies across the EU to fall under the scope of the directive.

Under the legislation, companies will be required to draw up a statement relating to environmental, social and employee-related matters, respect for human rights, and their stance on corruption and bribery. This will include a description of policies, outcomes and risks related to these issues.

Companies that do not have such policies will have to explain why this is the case, the council said.

However, some have questioned how the directive will be implemented. The Climate Disclosure Standards Board (CDSB), a consortium of business and environmental organisations, said that there was a lack of consistency of information on these issues, which will make it hard for investors to compare performance between companies.

Mardi McBrien, CDSB managing director, urged the European commission to develop guidance on consistency of data that needs to be reported, and recommended that member states do the same when transposing the directive into domestic legislation.

The directive was one of a number approved by the council yesterday. A directive on infrastructure for alternative fuels for road vehicles requires member states to draw up a strategy for the deployment of charging and refueling facilities for vehicles running on, for example, electricity, hydrogen and natural gas in the next two years.

The timescale for establishing the necessary infrastructure varies, depending on the type of fuel, vehicle and area it will be deployed in. For example, authorities have to the end of 2020 to roll out recharging and refueling points in cities and suburban areas for cars running on electricity or compressed natural gas.

The council also adopted legislation to tackle damage to the environment, economy and human health by non-native invasive species. Member states will be responsible for drawing up the list of invasive species that will be covered by the directive, according to the severity of the damage they cause.

There are more than 12,000 invasive species in Europe, costing some €12 billion a year in damage to health, crop yield, fish stock, infrastructure and protected species, the council estimates.

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