COMPANIES are responsible for some of the biggest environmental disasters ever known. BP springs to mind, as does Enron, and a multitude of others.
But arguably the scariest aspect of corporate polluting is that we know very little about it.
There is a clear lack of comprehensive data available on the world's biggest corporate carbon emitters. Research from the Environmental Investment Organisation, a climate change and finance think tank, shows that the level of public disclosure of greenhouse gas emissions among the world's largest 800 companies is unacceptably poor.
Its research found that just 37pc of those companies were reporting complete data and correctly adopting the basic principles of greenhouse gas emissions reporting. Only a fifth had their data externally verified.
Companies are under pressure worldwide from policymakers, and a public increasingly concerned with green issues, to report the environmental fallout of all activities related to their daily business – from plane journeys to office supplies.
Officials hope the data generated can point to potential energy savings and encourage firms to reduce their emissions.
But, for now, London is the only stock exchange that forces all major companies to report in detail and many, particularly in emerging markets like Russia and across Southeast Asia, have all but ignored the idea.
And though companies are increasingly measuring and disclosing their environmental performance in their annual reports, the lack of a universally accepted or mandatory standard means both reporting formats and content vary widely.
Just one of the world's largest 800 companies surveyed by the EIO, German chemicals producer BASF, reported emissions across its entire value chain – from sources such as business travel, transport, distribution and investments. This transparency placed it at number one in the rankings.
"This ought to be a wake-up call for companies. Since the majority of total corporate emissions often come from (value chain) sources, large quantities of emissions are not being accounted for," said EIO chief executive Sam Gill.
"Not only could this be a source of unmeasured risk for companies but it also means we are not getting the full picture in terms of corporate emissions," he added.
The 10 best companies when it came to reporting emissions were telecoms firms such as Canada's BCE, Singapore Telecom, Spain's Telefonica, BT Group and Deutsche Telekom, according to the EIO. The bottom 10, with no publicly disclosed emissions data, was made up of mainly Russian and US utilities and oil and gas firms, like Phillips 66, Lukoil, Edison International and First Energy. (Additional reporting by Reuters)