Published October 2003
Over the past 30 years under the aegis of environmental regulation, massive amounts of design, production and cost data have been made available to governments. In turn, much of this is available to the public - and to gather it is entirely legal, ethical and proper.
From a competitive intelligence standpoint, how good is this information? How much effort is required to obtain it, and is the effort worth it? This study has addressed these questions in four chemical-producing countries: Germany, Switzerland, United Kingdom and United States. Our first finding is that in two of these countries, environmental information clearly is worth a look from direct competitors. In the other two counties, it is not worth the effort involved, except perhaps on an ad hoc basis.
Our second finding is that some companies may be over-reporting environmental information, hence giving away more competitive intelligence than they must. This is like paying too much tax - you are welcome to do so, but why? Management should as a matter of course review its procedures to prevent over-reporting.
Finally, policy makers ought to check whether their public-information systems are in fact working, and industry should urge them to do so. In one of the countries surveyed, our distinct impression was that the system does not work as advertised - the data are very hard, if not impossible, to obtain. This is dangerous, because were this failing ever to come to broader attention, our guess is the public would put the blame on industry. 'Companies hide vital data', the headlines would scream. Or more likely something such as 'Death merchants deny access to data of doom.'
Whichever, the headlines would be flat wrong, because government is entirely responsible for the system failure. But experience suggests industry would get blamed, and to prevent that, industry should help government get its house in order.