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Green transparency
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With the Measures for the Disclosure of Environmental Information coming into force on May 1, all enterprises in China are expected to timely and accurately make public their ecological footprints.

This will bring to an end the embarrassing practice that multinational companies are virtually left free to shirk the standard operating procedures of their countries of origin by not publicizing pollution information.

A recent survey by Greenpeace found that 13 of 28 multinational companies operating in China adopted a double standard on environment protection due to the lack of impetus to unveil information on pollution.

The implementation of the new measures will surely goad them to show equal respect for the public's right to know the environmental truth in China as well as in their home countries.

More important, the new regulation on disclosure of environmental information will give a huge boost to Chinese people's participation in environmental protection.

On the one hand, the measures stipulate that the environmental administration should provide the public with a large amount of information ranging from related laws and regulations on environmental protection, action plans, overall environmental quality, environmental statistics and survey information to names of serious corporate polluters.

Such information will help the public to both grasp the seriousness of the environmental situation and keep a watchful eye on those enterprises failing to meet national or regional pollutant discharging standards.

On the other hand, the principle of combining voluntary disclosures with mandatory ones makes it necessary for enterprises to release their environmental information on time and accurately.

The government encourages all enterprises to make public their environmental goals and performance, their total consumption of resources, environmental investment and technological development, and discharge of pollutants and treatment of waste. It is believed that all such information will help the public judge how well these enterprises have carried out their corporate social responsibility.

For heavy polluters, the regulation has made it an obligation for them to disclose not only their emission of pollutants but also their construction of environmental protection facilities. Such detailed information will enable the public to identify those heaviest polluters and those most reluctant to improve their environmental performance. The public, as consumers and investors, can bring pressure on these enterprises to behave in an environmentally responsible way.

(China Daily May 5, 2008)

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