Stat of the month: Dirty business

It's hard to put a price on global environmental damage, but the UN has been trying to do just that. Trucost, the consultancy that carried out the study on its behalf, found that the cost of pollution and other environmental damage caused by the world's 3,000 biggest companies totted up to $2.2trn (£1.4trn) in 2008. This equates to about 6%-7% of the companies' combined turnover.

Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

The biggest single eco-crime, accounting for more than half the total, says the report, is the emission of greenhouse gases, widely thought to be the cause of climate change. Other costly items included damage from the over-use and pollution of freshwater, local air pollution and smog.

The utilities sector is one of the worst offenders, responsible for $420bn worth of environmental damage, while consumer goods faces a $281bn charge and oil and gas $175bn. For once, financial services is out of the firing line - the cost of the damage wreaked by this sector is a mere $26.7bn. Still, big business might want to clean up its act - the reputational damage could prove even more costly than the heavy eco-taxes looming on the horizon.

$2.2trn - Cost of the damage to the environment caused by the world's biggest firms in 2008.

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