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Companies to Make Environmental Disclosures : Accord: The voluntary action falls short of CERES principles adopted in 1989.

April 26, 1993|Reuters

WASHINGTON — A dozen large companies including Phillips Petroleum Corp. and International Business Machines Corp. are due to announce a voluntary agreement to disclose key environmental data next month.

Under the terms of the agreements, companies will pledge to publish "environmental performance data" regularly on waste, emissions and the way company policies are established.

The companies are working out final details, said Barbara Price, Phillips vice president for health, environment and safety. Also among the companies planning to sign the agreement is Dow Chemical Co. Price declined to identify the others.

The data they will release will fall short of true "environmental audits," which include more details about problems companies face at their facilities, Price said. She said releasing such data would invite lawsuits.

Required audits are one reason Phillips was unwilling to sign the so-called CERES principles, a set of 10 objectives introduced in 1989 by the Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economics.

Sun Co. Inc. recently signed the CERES principles. Price said much of the information that will be published under the agreement is already available to the public--but only if citizens know how to wend their way through arcane bureaucratic structures.

Not all 12 companies will report exactly the same information, but the data will focus on "common areas," she said.

"If you believe that disclosure is either proper or inevitable, then why wouldn't you want to say what you're doing?" she said. "We want to show that there is management of this stuff."

Mounting concern about the environment has already forced many companies to be more open about emissions, wastes and general practices.

Price said Phillips began doing detailed environmental audits in the early 1980s but did not publish them. "It is legitimate that the public wants to know more. But let's make sure the stuff we give them is useful," she said.

Price said it was still not clear whether companies signing the agreement will publish the environmental data in their annual reports or in separate pamphlets.

She said she believes that Congress will soon pass a law requiring companies to publish compiled environmental data regularly, and said she can even envision the Securities and Exchange Commission requiring the data to be included in annual reports.

"It's coming anyway, and if I can help define what it is, I'd much rather be at the table than not," Price said.

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