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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Heavy Polluters Start to Care for Ecology

Most of the country's industrial companies prefer to clean up their messes rather than prevent them, the World Wildlife Fund said Tuesday.

But the companies are becoming more aware of the need for environmental protection, while banks, IT and telecom firms remain lackadaisical about the issue, it said.

Heavy polluters are dedicating time and attention to improving environmental practices because they realize the importance of being good corporate citizens, WWF said in a new study of 67 large businesses, including oil firms LUKoil and TNK-BP, titanium producer VSMPO-Avisma and carmaker AvtoVAZ.

"Business turned out to be more conscientious than we expected," said Nina Pusenkova, senior policy adviser on trade and investment at WWF Russia.

In the study, the environmental group sent out detailed questionnaires to 310 of Russia's largest companies. Only 67, or 21 percent, responded. That figure tallies with the results the group received in previous studies conducted in China and South Africa, where 33 percent and 25 percent replied, respectively. Similar studies were conducted in India and United Arab Emirates. The studies reveal that, when compared to other emerging-market economies, Russia is not generating a lot of economic activity for the carbon dioxide pollution it creates, said Alistair Schorn, a trade and investment program manager at WWF South Africa. "There is a declining trend but Russia is still much higher than other BRICs countries," Schorn said at the presentation of the study, referring to the emerging market economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China.

And rather than introducing innovative technologies to prevent pollution, a majority of Russian companies put their efforts into cleanup operations. "The companies are not fully aware of the newest tendencies in the sustainable development sphere," the report said.

While 31 companies were familiar with the environmental management standard known as ISO 14001, only four companies knew about trading in carbon emission credits and none had heard of the Equator Principles, a benchmark used for managing social and environmental risk in project financing. Reasons given for paying attention to environmental issues ranged from corporate governance (40), to increasing productivity (17) and an aid to marketing (14).

Fifty-three companies said they had a separate annual budget for environmental protection. The budgets ranged from $300 million to $33,000, Pusenkova said.

Big polluters such as the oil and gas, timber, metals and auto industries were, predictably, well represented in the study. There were few responses from banks, IT and insurance companies.

Yevgeny Shvarts, WWF Russia's director of conservation policy, said banks had told him privately that they were not prepared to take on the extra cost of tackling environmental concerns. Raising awareness in the financial sector is "a job for tomorrow," Shwarts said.

Mikhail Ugodin, an analyst with banks rating agency RusRating, said environmental issues were not yet on banks' agendas as there was no legal requirement to address them.