A further concern is that all competitors in a particular market should be treated equally, to avoid a green version of Gresham's law in which bad environmental practices are allowed to chase out good. That is one reason why companies like ICI and IBM are building up comprehensive communications programmes, internal as well as external, which involve listening just as much as talking. Livermore explains that under IBM's Speak Up programme every employee has the right to express concern anonymously to the top of the company, which has to answer quickly. "It's a useful barometer for us on what people think. People recognise what you are doing, and it's difficult in this area to create an image which is different from reality."
Hopes that the environmental issue can be pinned down and categorised, however, are likely to be disappointed. Even a firm's intellectual product, like systems for psychological measurement and testing, can have an environmental impact just as pervasive as the air conditioning or noise. A significant proportion of the MPs in the survey felt that legislation was needed to regulate a wide range of issues, and "to set clear, universally agreed targets" on many more. If companies do not ensure that they understand and are understood, they have only themselves to blame.
A politic choice for the environment.
Some people say that if a company is environmentally responsible it is necessarily less profitable. Which of these come closest to your own view?
Environmentally responsible means less profitable 12%
Environmentally responsible means more profitable
in the long term 76%
No opinion 12%
What particular environmental problems do you feel need tackling in the form of legislation in the next parliamentary session?
River/water pollution 20% 13%
Atmospheric/air pollution 24% 39%
Pollution in general 2% 13%
Noise pollution 11% 17%
Sea/beach/coastal pollution/sewage dumping 33% 39%
Vehicles/exhaust fumes 15% 13%
Power station discharges 11% 13%
Toxic emissions from industrial plants 9% 26%
Agriculture chemicals/pesticides 7% 13%
Litter 7% 4%
Overall, do you think that British industry is more or less responsible with respect to the environment than its main European competitors?
About the same 41%
Please would you tell me what priority you think British industry should place on each of the following policies? Should it place a very high priority, fairly high priority, fairly low priority or very low priority?
Very Fairly Fairly Very
high high low low
(a) Cutting consumption of scarce raw
materials 48% 42% 4% 1%
(b) Energy conservation 73% 24% 1% 1%
(c) Cutting industrial pollution and
effluents 84% 13% 1% 1%
(d) Switching freight from road to rail 30% 36% 17% 12%
(e) Cutting consumption of water 11% 31% 29% 17%
(f) Using more recycled material 33% 49% 10% 6%
(g) Maximising profits 35% 41% 14% 5%
(h) Utilising alternative energy sources 34% 44% 16% 3%
Please would you tell me whether you feel that current legislation is too severe, about right or not severe enough in relation to the following?
Too About severe No
severe right enough opinion
(a) Legislative requirements on
industry to encourage recycling
of bottles through deposits 3% 32% 61% 4%
(b) Legislative requirements on
industry to encourage recycling
of cars 1% 35% 57% 7%
(c) Industrial pollutants and
effluents - 31% 62% 7%
(Tom Lester is a specialist writer on business affairs.)