Positive influence of corporate environmental disclosure on environmental education and consumer education: How to make a greater number of ordinary consumers understand the content of environmental reports

2002-No.5
Discussion Paper

The publication by corporations of information relating to the environment is becoming more and more widespread. In particular, there has been a rapid increase in the number of companies which disclose information in the form of environmental reports. An environmental report is a document for public consumption which sets out a company's efforts to get to grips with environmental issues as well as its actual achievements in this area. In the survey by this research center 284 out of 1474 companies listed on the first section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange replied that they had published an environmental report during 2001 while 91 of the companies which had not yet published such a report replied that they had plans to compile one (as of January2002). Environmental reports are becoming a more generally-accepted means for environmental information disclosure.

Environmental reports contain data which are indispensable in enabling consumers and investors, as people who want to lead healthy, civilized lives, to make judgements about corporations. Up till now, as an information disclosure means which is used to assess companies' attitude towards environmental issues and select companies which are concerned about the environment, the contents of the disclosed information have been analyzed, and discussions held about the possibility of comparing the information provided by different companies, and ways of guaranteeing there liability of this information.

On the other hand, to date there has been little discussion about how environmental reports are regarded by ordinary citizens/consumers.

For ordinary citizens/consumers, environmental reports have not yet become part of their everyday experience. For example, an Internet survey, "goo research," carried out in 2001, revealed that among the survey monitors only 8.5 percent replied, "Yes, I have," when asked if they had ever read an environmental report.

The aim of this study was to discover, by looking into the conditions required for environmental reports to be used in environmental education and consumer education, what is necessary in order for such reports to be read by more citizens and consumers. With this aim in view, the survey was conducted by means of questionnaires and interviews on the following analys is themes. In the course of our study, we tried to discover what the issues were by allowing our subjects to state their opinions freely as far as possible.

[Analysis themes]
(1) If corporate environmental reports are difficult for ordinary citizens/consumers to read, why should this be the case? What can be done to make them easier for ordinary citizens/consumers to read?
(2) What are the conditions required for environmental reports to be used as educational materials in environmental or consumer education?
(3) What sort of measures to make environmental reports easier to read will companies actually be able to put into practice?

For the first theme,weasked persons taking part in a seminar on environmental reports organized by a certain non-profit organization to respond to a questionnaire.

For the second theme, we interviewed persons involved in environmental education and consumer education. There were two reasons for proposing this as a theme for our analysis. One was that under present circumstances, when ordinary citizens/consumers have little opportunity of coming directly into contact with corporate environmental reports, it seemed that using these as an educational material would be a good opportunity to let ordinary citizens/consumers discover the existence of environmental reports, and learn how to read them and use them for various purposes. The second reason was that we felt that the very conditions which would make environmental reports easier to use as an educational material would coincidein most cases with the conditions under which the reports would also be easier for ordinary citizens/consumers to read.

Finally, for the third theme, we interviewed corporate personnel in charge of compiling environmental reports.

In this study we hoped, by conducting a survey which would clarify what was required in order for the information contained in environmental reports to be understood by a greater number of consumers, to obtain tips for "positive influences of corporate environmental disclosure on environmental education and consumer education and related issues to be tackled."

Date: