Serious pollution incidents are down on 2002

Risk-based regulation of industry is paying off for the environment, says the UK Environment Agency.

Its report, Spotlight on business - environmental performance in 2003, shows that serious pollution incidents were down on the previous year, and the amount of waste recovered by businesses is improving. On the downside, some businesses are seriously harming the environment - and repeatedly offending.

The Agency is considering more stringent penalties including blacklisting companies with poor environmental records when procuring services, imposing suspended penalties which double or treble if the fault is not corrected, and the making of restoration orders to put right environmental damage at the expense of the offender.

Commenting on the report, Michael Roberts, CBI director of business environment said: "Firms are not trying to avoid meeting their environmental obligations.

Responsible companies view fair enforcement, backed by effective sanctions, as an important part of their operating environment. But British business also invests £4bn a year complying with environmental regulation. The Agency's focus should be on more effective delivery of its risk-based approach to enforcement, rather than adding yet more business regulations."

Corporate campaigner Brian Shaad of Friends of the Earth, took a more aggressive view. "This report shows that business is still not taking its environmental responsibilities seriously enough. Too many companies are repeatedly breaching environmental regulations."