AL AIN // The food industry is the least likely to report its environmental performance, while oil and gas is the most transparent, research has suggested.
The study, by researchers at UAE University, said that the hydrocarbon industry’s openness was mainly due to global pressure.
It said the building materials and the cement industry were the next most transparent sector.
Abu Dhabi Environment Vision 2030: are Organisations up to it? was launched after a gap was found between the data needed to achieve environmental goals and the information made available.
“To achieve the Environment Vision 2030, Environment Agency Abu Dhabi identified specific imperatives that need be delivered by specific sectors,” said associate professor Dr Ahmed Abdel-Maksoud, who led the project.
“Lack of data is recognised as a critical hindering factor in achieving this vision.”
The study used an international index adapted for the UAE to gauge companies’ voluntary disclosure of their environmental performance.
Using data collected from the 2015 annual reports from 94 companies, almost half of which operate in Abu Dhabi and the rest from the other emirates, the results showed “a poor score of voluntary environmental performance disclosure”.
Non-listed companies scored higher for their disclosures than listed ones.
“It is certainly pleasantly surprising that some of the non-listed companies, particularly the state-owned ones, are more forthcoming on their disclosures on environmental performance,” said Dr Ashraf Gamal, chief executive of Hawkamah Institute for Corporate Governance.
“Hawkamah-S&P’s environment, social and governance index, which focuses on Mena-listed companies and has over 10 years of back data, has shown significant improvements, particularly in environment and governance reporting.
“Better reporting practices take time in our region. A combination of government direction, policy, regulations and stronger push from market forces assist in accelerating the quality of reporting, but these need to be continually tracked.”
Dr Abdel-Maksoud said the emphasis placed by the Abu Dhabi Government on supporting sustainable environmental projects, such as Masdar City, could be a factor in its higher rates of environmental transparency.
“In terms of being ‘up for it’, to use the title of the study, they are still not there yet,” he said. “But what this research shows is that Abu Dhabi companies could be leading their UAE peers in the field of environmental disclosure.”
Bader Al Kaabi, 23, an accounting student at UAEU and one of three student members of the study team, said the results were surprising.
“The thing that we noticed the most in our research was that the average total environmental disclosure for non-listed companies exceeded that for listed companies,” said Mr Al Kaabi. “This finding is interesting and contradicts prior expectations.”
Team member Yousif Ahmed, 21, said: “I almost took for granted that listed companies were going to achieve a higher environmental disclosure score compared to non-listed companies.”