"Environmental communication" can be defined as a set of strategies and actions taken by institutions, businesses, the media in order to disseminate correct knowledge of environmental issues and promote an ongoing relationship made by dialogue and cooperation between citizens, consumers , institutions, companies, customers and suppliers, and facilitate the process of consensus building.
In its most general sense, "communicate" means to trigger a process of mutual exchange of knowledge between two or more parties, in which the broadcaster has the opportunity to receive and who receives in turn has the possibility of transmitting his own knowledge.
Reciprocity and of comparability become particularly significant in communication of complex environmental issues, that need more information and higher involvement to be managed.
Public opinion and governments increasing attention on environmental issues related to productive activities has prompted companies to consider the environment as an element of added value in terms of image and competitive advantage and therefore to adopt an attitude of "proactive".
Environmental Management Systems (ISO 14001 or EMAS) and environmental communication instruments not only are embodying such attitude, but also the desire to make its commitment and attention to the environment well known both inside (employees, management, shareholders) and outside the company.
Companies “communicate the environment” through informational documents in which the main relations between the company and the environment are described:
Environmental Balance, an accounting tool providing a picture of interrelations between a company and the natural environment, through representation of the quantitative and qualitative data on the environmental impacts of the productive activities and the economic and financial effort made by the company to protect the environment;
Environmental Report, containing Environmental Management Indices (which evaluate the commitment to control the environmental aspects), Absolute Indices (which measure the importance of the impact factors generated by the company), Environmental Performance Indices (which evaluate the environmental efficiency resulting from the fluctuations in the production level), Environmental Effect Indices (which evaluate the actual variations of the environment caused by the company’s activity);
Environmental Statement, provided by the EMAS European Regulation, which reports, besides the environmental policy, the description of the environmental management system, direct and indirect environmental aspects, productive process and the programs for the improvement of the environmental performance;
Sustainability Report and Social Balance, reflect the principle of organizations’ social accountability, according to which the company must be accountable also for the social effects due by its activity.