STATISTICS - 29.11.2012

Environmental performance report

The Environment Agency (EA) has published its annual Sustainable Business Report, which identifies the number of environmental incidents, prosecutions and more. What can be learned from it?

What’s been happening?

So are businesses on top of their environmental responsibilities? According to the Environment Agency’s (EA’s) report, it appears that most are getting there (see The next step). In the foreword of the report Lord Smith, Chairman of the EA, states, “the vast majority of regulated businesses have a good record on environmental performance and take their environmental responsibilities seriously”. However, he adds that this isn’t the case across the board. So who’s getting it wrong and how might this affect you?


Unsurprisingly, illegal waste operators are singled out as the biggest problem for the enforcers. 759 illegal sites were stopped in 2011; although a significant dent was made, another 1,000 new sites were identified. But it’s not all bad news. The report also identifies that businesses have produced less waste and more of it is being reused beneficially. The EA’s figures show that industrial sites reduced the amount of waste they produced by over one million tonnes.


Those handling waste illegally aren’t the only ones causing problems. In 2011 there were a total of 620 serious pollution incidents, 39% of which were attributed to industrial sites. The other major contributors were the water companies and those involved in waste activities. Although these numbers aren’t what the EA would like to see, they do represent a 4% improvement on the 2010 figures and a 52% improvement since the year 2000.

Included in the statistics were 109 incidents of pollution from odour, smoke, dust and noise.


The EA had a busy year in the courts. It prosecuted 178 separate companies for environmental offences. Total fines came to over £3.8 million. The average fine was £21,600.

These figures identify that fines have been imposed across many sectors. The most significant being:

  • water companies - £927,120
  • waste storage, treatment, transfer and use - £767,940
  • refineries and fuel - £710,000.

What can be learned from this?

The statistics paint a pretty clear picture: industrial and waste sites are both the biggest polluters and the most likely to face enforcement action. However, this doesn’t mean that the EA isn’t interested in the others.

Tip. Regardless of the size and nature of your business, don’t draw unwanted attention to it. As this report identifies, the EA was alerted to many offences that led to a prosecution when disgruntled members of the public or unhappy neighbours made a report. So, for example, don’t let waste build up outside your premises, make sure that it’s kept in secure containers and is collected by a licensed contractor.

The statistics identified that waste, water and other industrial sites are responsible for most pollution incidents. It was also found that the EA is alerted to many problems by the public. So don’t give anyone any reason to report you, e.g. keep waste securely and don’t let it build up outside.

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