01 June 1995 00:00 [Source: ICB]
MONTECATINI'S experience of environmental reporting is different to that of other Italian firms, such as Caffaro and Mapei - it is a larger multinational, with subsidiaries worldwide and it entered the environmental reporting arena at an earlier date.
Its Canadian and US operations have been involved in the Responsible Care initiative since 1986. But its first specific action, in 1990, was the setting up of an Operating Committee for Safety and Environment, and its European businesses, including those in Italy, signed up to Responsible Care in December 1991, when Cefic initiated its programme.
It has a head start on its Italian counterparts, not only in terms of time of entry into the programme, but also through the experiences of its North American operations. Gaetano Fabbri, Montecatini's director of environment and safety explains: 'Cooperation means we were able to discuss the complexities of the programme.' It also provided a much-needed forum for the discussion of problems, something which Italy lacked.
With this head start Montecatini published a corporate environmental report in 1992. However, it began an environmental accounting programme in Italy in 1990 and its reports, therefore, contain data covering a five-year period.
This environmental accounting programme requires each production unit to draw up its own 'environmental balance' - the input and output materials and energy figures for each single unit collected every three months, which once collated I provides an overview of the company's environmental status.
The reports have provided data on emissions, effluents and waste, with data broken down geographically to cover Italy, Europe, North America and the I rest of the world.
This year's report, due to be published in June, will report from a corporate point of view and, for the first time, from a company and site point angle. It will highlight individual company figures and the trends of major sites as well as include fugitive emissions data.
The report also includes information from Montecatini's six operating companies - Himont (polyolefins and advanced materials), Moplefan (polyolefins downstream), Ausimont (fluorine chemicals ad hydrogen peroxide), SIR Industriale (polyester and epoxy resins), Anti-bioticos (pharmaceuticals) and Edison (electric energy) and the 23 main sites.
Indices related to production are also given for some sites, although Montecatini does not provide overall group indices because of the variety of products involved.
However, the company's raw emissions data are not in line with European industry body Cefic's standards set down for environmental reporting, principally, says Fabbri, because Montecatini started publishing this data before Cefic produced its standards. It is now working towards standardisation.
Montecatini is also pushing ahead into the next stage of environmental reporting with the introduction this year of independent verification. 'We introduced independent verification as it's another way of improving comparability - it's important to be able to compare your system with an independent view,' says Fabbri.
'All the major companies I know are working towards this stage,' he says.
Fabbri says Montecatini will work towards applying for certification for environmental management standard Emas, explaining that Montecatini's internal audit programme is similar to Emas' project. 'We use virtually the same method, and have only to adapt it.'
Its established internal audit system is set up to check the environmental performance and safety conditions of each operating unit every one-to-two years - the audit is conducted by a Montecatini team external to the audited plant. Specialised consulting firms also give support.
Fabbri sees some form of standardised public emissions register as inevitable and necessary in Europe: 'It is necessary to define internal standards, particularly in regard to entering the certification system, but it's not easy because of companies' differences.'
Montecatini's US operations in New Jersey and Louisiana report under the Toxics Release Inventory, but Fabbri is not convinced that the similar Pollution Emissions Register should be introduced in Europe. 'In our opinion it should be voluntary and not compulsory. The important question is how will the register be used - to inform, or to control?'
He believes the level of information available in environmental reports should be enough, with environmental reports possibly becoming part of a verified audit scheme - introducing a Pollution Emissions Register would be one more piece of bureaucracy to deal with.
From 1988-92 Montecatini invested around Lira600m ($360 000) in environment and safety projects. It also introduced Proact, a training programme consisting of ten classroom and field training units, which is designed to promote an awareness of environmental safety to staff at all levels within the group.
Environmental expenditure as a percentage of turnover stands at about 1.5-2%. However, as Fabbri points out for Montecatini, this figure can differ from company to company. 'If you have clean technology, for example Himont, you have no environmental costs and therefore the numbers are impossible to compare. Other considerations to measure the performance of a company should be used, rather than environmental costs.'
Although producing environmental reports has been beneficial for Montecatini, Fabbri says it has been the production of its 'environmental balances' which has produced more helpful information on opportunities for cost cutting, because they 'define the goal of the plant or factory, and therefore identify the problems and help to find solutions'.
He says: 'The environment is a good market element. In the short term, environmental improvement means cost-you have to invest to improve, but for medium term it gives the best balance.'
Fabbri feels the public is naturally suspicious of the chemical industry, but believes greater transparency of information can and will generate more trust -but only with continuous work.
He does not believe the chemical industry is doing enough yet. 'We have to consider the general public's opinion, not ours, and reporting is a start. We are improving, not necessarily in all countries, but definitely by sites.'
He admits that Montecatini does not have 'wonderful relationships' with the local community surrounding some sites, but this varies, and is a lot better 'especially around those sites where we have had the open plant initiative'.
Continuing to produce an annual environmental report, increasing its communication with the public and introducing independent verification is the way forward for Montecatini.
However, Fabbri says the complexity of European and, in particular, national regulations, could hold this progress back, warning that in Italy's haste to catch up with other European countries, it could move too quickly, creating inapplicable laws and confusion.
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