Balfour Beatty has used its first environmental and social report to defend its involvement in the Ilisu Dam project in Turkey.
Chief executive Mike Welton said Balfour Beatty had acted in a principled and responsible way throughout its four-year involvement in the dam, which ended when the company pulled out of the project last November.

He said: "Some suggested we were oblivious to the many social and environmental sensitivities and challenges which the dam presented. This is not the case."

A spokesperson this week said Welton's defence, which features prominently in the report, was an attempt to put Balfour Beatty's side of the story. He said: "We believe we acted responsibly, and that we were misrepresented and demonised to a certain extent by certain interested parties. It's important people understand that and this reports sets that out."

Balfour Beatty pulled out of the £1.4bn project last November, citing commercial and environmental issues that would not be resolved quickly enough for the firm or its shareholders.

The company attracted criticism from environmental groups for its involvement in the project and was targeted by Friends of the Earth at its annual general meeting last May. Opponents of the dam claimed that it would have made 30,000 members of south-eastern Turkey's oppressed Kurdish population homeless and destroyed historic sites.

The spokesperson said that, despite the criticism, Balfour Beatty's performance and share price had been unaffected. He said: "We're not going to shrink back and will continue to be involved in major public projects."

The report also showed that Balfour Beatty's accident rate had increased marginally from 0.51 per 100,000 hours worked in 2000 to 0.52 last year. The company said this was a result of firms that it had acquired being incorporated into the figures.

Balfour Beatty's environmental and social report, which was released this week, covers its corporate responsibility, health and safety and environmental practices.

Prime minister Tony Blair has urged the UK's 350 largest contractors to publish such reports to make environmental, social and corporate responsibility issues more transparent.

Balfour Beatty's annual report was also released this week. This showed that Welton earned £518,922 last year compared with £477,335 in 2000. He was paid a bonus of £132,621.