|Steering Business Toward Sustainability (UNU, 1995, 191 pages)|
|Part one: Education|
|5. Assessing corporate environmental performance|
Not all consumers of environmental information are the same. For instance, although most reports are available to all interested parties for a fee, each is generally aimed at a specific audience. In-depth reports on corporate environmental performance are generally of particular interest to grassroots environmentalists, law firms specializing in environmental issues, large nonprofit groups such as the World Wildlife Fund, Sierra Club, and Greenpeace, as well as research organizations, lobbying groups, investment managers, institutional investors, environmental engineers, educators, environmental regulators such as the EPA, state-level Departments of Environmental Protection, and corporations themselves. Shorter reports tend to target socially-screened mutual funds, foundations, investment managers, and stock brokers who want to direct their investment dollars toward companies that are socially and environmentally responsible. CEP's best-selling guidebook Shopping for a Better World is aimed at consumers of corporations' products. It evaluates over 2,000 products of some 191 major companies with the objective of influencing consumers' purchases and, ultimately, corporate social and environmental performance.
The news media are both consumers of the environmental reports of social monitors and active disseminators. Reports of social monitors are often used by reporters for newspapers and magazines thereby magnifying the reach and impact of a social monitor on the public and, indirectly, on firms. The news media actually extends the reach of a social monitor to consumers who are not subscribers to its products. News reports based on a social monitor's reports or ratings also affect other groups that routinely monitor the news.
As varied as are the consumers of environmental information published by social monitors, so too are the uses to which that information is put. Business subscribers often use the reports of social monitors to read the environmental performance of their industry and to identify "best practices" to model. They often use those same reports to promote their own environmental performance.
Often competing social monitors will rely on each other's reports to inform their own campaigns and programs. The reports not only provide information on companies' environmental performances, but also are often pointers to sources of information that other social monitors might explore further. The in-depth reports of some social monitors also prove useful to small regional environmental groups looking for information on a company's local facilities. Government agencies and offices also use these reports as an added check on the accuracy of a company's environmental claims.
Many social investors, pension fund managers, and institutional investors find the information compiled by social monitors to be valuable in selecting investments or voting on proxies. Attorneys, environmental engineers, financial accountants, and public relations professionals use the in-depth reports of social monitors for a quick read on a company's environmental performance, saving themselves the enormous time and effort that would be required to put together a comprehensive profile of the firm. Educators and students use them as reading material in courses and as data for research projects. Many individual consumers rely on the guidelines of social monitors to help them choose what products to buy, which companies to invest in, and which companies to work for.