Fewer U.S. Companies Reporting On Environmental Activities

The number of top U.S. companies that produce an annual report on environmental performance is slipping. The disclosure level has fallen by one-third since the mid-1990s, according to a joint investigation by Amsterdam University and KPMG's environmental consulting arm, which is based in De Meern, Netherlands. Professor George Molenkamp, a KPMG consultant, says: "Tighter regulation could be inhibiting companies from opening up voluntarily. It is a matter of how far you can go without getting into problems of liability." American companies are bucking a world trend: 24% of companies surveyed worldwide published an environmental report for last year compared with 17% in 1996. In that year, the U.S. led the field with 44% producing data. But the U.S. now trails Germany, Sweden, Britain, and Norway. Some companies are required to make such reports and some do voluntarily. Each U.S. company with more than 10 employees is obliged under the government's Toxic Release Inventory program to submit information on emissions of specified chemicals to the EPA. The Securities and Exchange Commission also requires disclosures on legislative compliance, judicial proceedings, and environment-related liabilities for publicly traded companies. European Union (EU) directives make similar submissions mandatory for all its 15 member countries.

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