|WIT's World Ecology Report - Vol. 08, No. 2 - Critical Issues in Health and the Environment (WIT, 1996, 16 pages)|
Christopher J. Moorehead
Environmental & Manufacturing Consulting Services, Toronto Canada
The achievement and demonstration of sound environmental performance by North American industry is becoming increasingly more important in today's competitive environment. Factors such as liability issues, tightening regulations, economic policies supporting environmental protection, and the general awareness and growth of concern amongst stockholders, particularly regarding sustainable development, have all contributed to an increased interest in the effective management of environmental issues. At the same time, traditional "command and control" approaches to the regulation and cleanup of toxic industrial wastes have largely proven ineffective, due to high administration costs, excessive litigation, and technical difficulties in treating hazardous contaminants after they have been generated.
Such methods have been abandoned throughout many jurisdictions in North America, and replaced by environmental management systems using a proactive approach known as pollution prevention. Pollution prevention provides the opportunity for regulatory authorities and industry to work jointly to minimize toxic discharges to the environment before they occur, reducing the need for costly enforcement programs. It also provides industry with the means to optimize manufacturing processes, reduce operating expenses, minimize health risks to employees and the general public, and minimize long-term liability.
In order to be truly effective, pollution prevention initiatives must be conducted within a structured management system and integrated with overall management activity. An environmental management system involves establishing the organizational structure, responsibilities, practices, procedures, processes and resources for implementing and maintaining environmental performance. Its purpose is to protect human health and the environment through minimizing the impact of a company's activities, products and services on the environment.
The International Organization of Standardization environmental management system standards, known as ISO 14000, are presently in the final stages of development, and are scheduled to be published in the fall of 1996. These standards were developed by a Canadian-led international technical committee, through consultation with both government and industry, and are the world's first set of international environmental management standards. The purpose of ISO 14000 is to provide a standardized benchmark for the planning, implementation, monitoring, and continuous improvement of environmental management systems.
Achieving and maintaining competitiveness with the ability to balance and integrate economic and environmental interests are the desired long-term results of an effective environmental management system. The European Community is presently considering adopting ISO 14000, and international trade bodies such as the World Trade Organization are reviewing the standards as a possible solution to the problem of country-specific environmental requirements being used as trade barriers. As was the case previously with the ISO 9000 quality standards, ISO 14000 environmental management system certification will likely become a requirement of doing business, particularly at the international level.