Efforts to reduce industrial effect on environment 'uneven', UN agency reports

15 May 2002 – Ten years after governments agreed to landmark measures to protect the ecosystem, the United Nations environment agency today said there was a growing gap between the efforts to reduce the impact of business and industry on nature and the worsening state of the planet.

According to a new report released today by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), this gap is due to the fact that only a small number of companies in each industry are actively integrating social and environmental factors into business decisions. Furthermore, improvements are being overtaken by economic growth and increasing demand for goods and services, a phenomenon known as the "rebound effect."

The new findings appear in the UNEP report "10 years after Rio: the UNEP assessment," which looks at current progress by 22 industries - ranging from accounting and advertising to waste and water management - on sustainability issues. The report was prepared specifically for the UN World Summit on Sustainable Development, scheduled to take place in Johannesburg, South Africa, from 26 August to 4 September.

“The new reports clearly show that progress since [the] Rio [Earth Summit] has been uneven within and amongst industry sectors and countries,” UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer said. “Despite many good examples of how industries are reducing waste and emissions, becoming more energy efficient, and helping poor communities to meet their basic needs, we have found that the majority of companies are still doing business as usual.”

In other news, UNEP also announced today the winners of this year's Global 500 awards, which will be presented on World Environment Day, 5 June.

Among the winners are Chifeng City and the City of Shenzhen, both of China, and Her Royal Highness Princess Basma bint Ali of Jordan, who is being acknowledged for her outstanding efforts to raise awareness of environmental issues in the Middle East.

Five groups will also be honoured: Juventude Ecological Angola, based in Luanda; Fondo Ecuatoriano Populorum Progressio, headquartered in Quito, Ecuador; the Tabigat Ecological Union, one of the first environmental non-governmental organizations in Kazakhstan; the Eco-Walk Children of Baguio City of the Philippines; and the Amazon Conservation Team based in Arlington, Virginia.

Established in 1972 by the UN General Assembly to focus global attention and action on environmental issues, World Environment Day is celebrated in some 120 countries around the world.

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