Ineos: reporting as seen by a private company

As not only the largest chemical manufacturer in the UK but also the third biggest in the world, with a $45 billion turnover, Ineos might be expected to do what many multinationals in the sector do and publish an annual sustainability or corporate responsibility report.

The firm says it strongly supports the CIA’s Responsible Care scheme and fully complies with its requirement to report to stakeholders on its health, safety and environmental performance. It also sponsors the Responsible Care category of the CIA’s chemical industry awards.

Since its formation in 1998 Ineos has grown through acquisitions and now owns much of the UK’s commodity chemicals production, including ICI’s former chlorine and hydrofluorocarbons facilities at Runcorn, and PVC production plants previously owned by EVC and Hydro Polymers. Its size quadrupled in 2005 when it bought BP’s chemicals arm, Innovene, which includes the massive refining and petrochemicals complex at Grangemouth.

But despite the importance of its reputation to the chemical industry, both in the UK and worldwide, Ineos does not produce a corporate environmental report. Nor do any of its 19 businesses - except chlorvinyls, whose main product, PVC, has been attacked by environmental groups for decades.

Unlike firms such as Johnson Matthey and Yule Catto, which do publish environmental reports, Ineos is a private firm - the largest in the UK. And as a private company, it is not required by law to publish an annual report - or business review - that must cover issues, including environmental issues, relevant to assessing the firm’s performance.

Legal requirements
Back in November ENDS asked Ineos if it thought this situation was consistent with the principles of Responsible Care. After more than three months, the company replied.

"We don’t have the same legal requirements as a public company and that’s why you don’t see the same level of reporting," said spokesman Richard Longden.

The firm interprets Responsible Care’s rule to "report" in its broadest sense, which does not necessarily include publishing reports. Instead, it says it complies by holding meetings and giving handouts to its stakeholders - residents, customers, suppliers, MPs and councillors. Meetings with local people are held every quarter at its Runcorn works and twice a year at its Grangemouth site. "The groups we are communicating with are happy with the information we provide," he said.

Major emitter
Ineos has a key national impact as a major CO2 emitter, but neither the group’s corporate website nor those for its various businesses mention this. However, if a member of the public trawled through the European Commission’s database of verified CO2 emissions they would discover that Ineos’s refineries and chemical plants in the UK alone emit millions of tonnes of CO2 every year.

Emissions data for Ineos’s sites can be viewed on the Environment Agency’s pollution inventory. But in isolation, the figures are meaningless to most people. For example, it says that Ineos Chlor’s Runcorn site emitted ‘<10,000kg’ of="" “inorganic="" chlorine="" compounds”="" in="" 2006.="" ineos’s="" only="" environmental="" report,="" produced="" by="" its="" chlorvinyls="" business,="" includes="" graphs="" showing="" the="" trend="" in="" emissions="" and="" discharges="" of="" substance="" categories="" such="" as="" ‘inorganic="" substances="" with="" potential="" for="" harm’.="" it="" also="" includes="" figures="" for="" the="" concentrations="" of="" substances="" found="" in="" air="" ‘close="" to="" the="">

But it does not give absolute data on total annual emissions. While it states that the concentration of mercury in air near the site is less than 0.1µg/m3 - a figure that seems reassuringly low - the pollution inventory reveals that the site emits more than a tonne of mercury each year. Given mercury’s persistence in the environment, this figure is much more relevant.

However, this lack of transparency may also conceal actions for which Ineos deserves credit - for example, absolute emissions of some toxic pollutants may have fallen substantially, or the company may be instigating programmes to reduce its huge carbon footprint. But without a systematic account of its environmental performance, the public is left to make up its own mind - and as opinion polls consistently show, the public does not have a very high opinion of the chemical industry.

Please sign in or register to continue.

Sign in to continue reading

Having trouble signing in?

Contact Customer Support at
report@ends.co.uk
or call 020 8267 8120

Subscribe for full access

or Register for limited access

Already subscribe but don't have a password?
Activate your web account here