Industry secretary Stephen Byers has committed the Department of Trade and Industry to pursuing sustainable development, `I am determined that sustainable development will matter to everything the DTI does,’ he told an environment forum organised by the Green Alliance and consultant ERM.
`The DTI has a crucial role to play in encouraging, leading and advocating,’ he said.
His commitment will face its first test at the World Trade Organisation talks in Seattle next week. These will set the agenda for trade negotiations over the next three years. Byers has pledged to get environmental issues included.
`The WTO must not stand in the way of the highest standard of corporate behaviour,’ Byers said.
`The sustainable development agenda is in the interests of business. We have to convince people that it isn’t a choice between making profit or being environmentally friendly,’ he added.
Byers also promised a better balance between support for new, environmentally friendly industries and traditional operations.
Other initiatives he announced included:
* applications for export credits will be screened for environmental content;
* the Government will not appeal against a High Court judgment in favour of Greenpeace that the EU Habitats Directive, which regulates development within specified natural habitats, applies to all UK waters – which may have implications for offshore oil exploration;
* the joint work with the Department of the Environment Transport and the Regions on the environmental technology best practice programme will be extended for another five years.
Byers said he would be disappointed if the independent review he has commissioned on company law, expected to report next year, did not address issues such as disclosure of environmental issues in annual reports and the responsibility of company directors.
The speech was generally well received. Sara Parkin, programme director of Forum for the Future, described it as `extremely encouraging’.