Some of the top companies on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange are flouting environmental laws and not telling their shareholders, according to a study by the Centre for Environmental Rights.
The CER assessed 20 companies listed on the JSE and found that between 2008 and 2014 many of them violated their permits and licences or flouted the law. Examples of violations included toxic spills, unauthorised disposal of hazardous waste, contamination of soil or of ground and surface water, and air pollution.
Yet all the companies had regularly been listed on the JSE’s Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) index.
This index, launched in 2004, was intended to identify companies which “integrate the principles of the triple bottom line’ – environmental, social and economic sustainability. It was designed as a tool for investors, including retirement funds and asset management companies, looking for “socially responsible” investments.
But the CER research shows that many of these listed companies also feature on another list – the list of companies against whom the Department of Environmental Affairs has had to take action.
The CER study, Full Disclosure, is based on the department’s annual National Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Reports, and also on other information published by authorities and reported to parliament, on material from affected communities and civil society and on the companies’ own annual reports.
Information on the mining companies is incomplete, the CER warns, because the Department of Mineral Resources and the Department of Water and Sanitation, which are responsible for compliance monitoring and enforcement of environmental and water laws by mining companies, do not publish the results of their work.
The companies assessed are: AECI, African Rainbow Minerals, Anglo American, Anglo American Platinum, Anglo Gold Ashanti, ArcelorMittal South Africa, DRDGold, Exxaro, Goldfields, Harmony Gold, Illovo, Impala, Platinum Mining, Lonmin, Merafe, Mondi, Nampak, PPC, Sappi, Sasol, and Tongaat Hulett. Each company was given a month to respond to the CER findings and all but three – Exxaro, Merafe Resources and Harmony Gold – responded.
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