Remembering Marek - and his legacy

The environmental community in Britain lost one of its most important voices in July, with the death of Marek Mayer who led the editorial team at ENDS for more than two decades.

Marek became editor in 1981, when The ENDS Report was just three years old and struggling to find a readership amid economic recession. He remained in post for 15 years during which time ENDS achieved commercial success. Though taking on a more strategic role as editorial director in 1997, he found time to continue to engage his passion: reporting on the forces that shape environmental policy.

Over the years, Marek did much to move the debate forward in the UK. However, the familiarity of some of the themes he reported in the early 1980s is striking to contemporary ears.

Marek's first editorial, in September 1981, noted how business leaders were talking about switching investment from Britain to "less environmentally restrictive areas of the world." He declared: "While their environmental overheads may seem burdensome in the context of their shrinking profit margins, it is the investment climate as a whole which is wrong in this country - not our environmental policies." The current spat between Friends of the Earth and the Confederation of British Industry shows how this particular debate has some way yet to run (see p 6 ).

Another familiar theme reported in 1981 was the UK's failure to comply with obligations under EC Directives on groundwater, bathing waters, shellfish waters and discharges of dangerous substances. ENDS homed in on delays in implementing provisions of the Control of Pollution Act 1974 that could have tackled many of these problems.

It took water privatisation in 1989, coupled with the formation of a powerful regulator (leading later to the Environment Agency), for Ministers to face up to these obligations. Four subsequent rounds of investment planning in the industry led to an eco-renaissance for the water environment in England and Wales. But it took until 1998 for the UK to implement the groundwater Directive - and compliance with the shellfish Directive is still in question (ENDS Report 365, p 15 ).

Another article in 1981, covering a House of Lords inquiry on hazardous waste, has many familiar rings. A "paucity of information on waste arisings and the economics of alternative methods of waste disposal were inhibiting disposal planning," the inquiry found. The Lords recommended that producers of hazardous waste should register with regulatory authorities and make quarterly returns. It was to take a further 24 years for these requirements to be put into effect, in July 2005. The Lords also called for measures to deliver a "properly coordinated, regional approach to waste disposal" - an aspiration the waste community continues to find challenging.

Even the climate change debate was beginning to be heard back in 1981. ENDS reported how scientists were predicting a doubling of atmospheric CO2 by 2030: "The environmental, economic and political implications of these trends will almost certainly make the build-up of CO2 one of the most pressing environmental issues of the closing years of the 20th century."

ENDS' success was built on detailed reporting of environmental developments affecting business. Marek knew that the devil was in the detail, and that professionals dealing with environmental management needed both detail and perspective. As the agenda has grown in complexity, so the need for a reliable guide has become ever more important.

What has changed over the past two decades is the depth of environmental engagement within businesses. Hand in hand with a mushrooming of environmental policy and legislation has come a blossoming of the environmental community.

Under our new owners Haymarket Publishing, which acquired ENDS last summer, we are determined to build on Marek's legacy by continuing to report in detail the policy developments shaping the business-environment debate. In the internet era, it is precisely this legacy - our ability to offer reliable analysis informed by extensive contacts within our readership - that allows us to be heard above the din.

  • Marek Mayer in memoriam, pp 20-21.