Going, Going, Green

By Rademaker, Ken | Occupational Hazards, September 1991 | Go to article overview

Going, Going, Green


Rademaker, Ken, Occupational Hazards


Going green."

It's not just a catch phrase or fringe idea for American industry anymore.

Never before has the private sector been subject to as many laws and regulations that pertain to environmental responsibility as it is today. And never before have such rules been as stringently enforced.

Factor in the pressure from public interest and environmental groups, and it's clear the "green" gauntlet has been laid squarely at industry's front door. But how difficult is it to meet such a challenge head-on? How do you come up with a plan that will provide a guideline for improved environmental practices?

To answer those questions, Occupational Hazards spoke with representatives of several of the nation's leading environmental consulting firms. What follows are their ideas and suggestions for getting in the green game - and keeping the ball in your company's court.

A Good Game Plan

Perhaps the most important aspect of instituting change in a company's environmental posture is the first step: formulating a game plan. Gilbert Hedstrom, vice president of the Environmental Management Unit for Arthur D. Little Inc., Cambridge, Mass., says the process of considering a wide variety of potential ideas for change not only helps get the company's decision-makers on the same page, but also sets a tone for how future decisions will be made.

"The basic question for a company in regard to the blueprint for change is, 'Where do we want to be?'" Hedstrom says. "Is it important that you be the best in your industry, among the best in your industry, or in the top half of your industry? Figuring out your posture is the most important thing, and then the policies, audit program, and everything else need to be determined and designed in a way that matches that."

Environmental leadership, Hedstrom insists, has to come from the top levels of management. "It sounds like kind of a trite thing to say," Hedstrom says, "but if you look at any of the companies that have made major strides, they've got a chief executive officer, a very strong vice president, or director of environmental health and safety who is taking charge." One of these officials, he says, should lead a team of managers in the planning phase of the project.

There's little question that instituting an environmental program costs money. However, Warren Lyman, a principal scientist in the hazardous waste division of Camp, Dresser & McKee Inc., Cambridge, Mass., says money can also be used as an argument to get the ball rolling. He points out the sharp increase in fines handed out by regulators in recent years, and notes that money can often be saved in the long run through the institution of new policies.

"Some of the environmental regulators today authorize penalties of up to $25,000 per violation, per day," Lyman says. "Tell that to a plant manager, and you'll get his or her attention very quickly."

Brian Martinson, senior program manager at ENSR Consulting and Engineering, Acton, Mass., says environmental planning must be done in a way that mixes both cost efficiency and responsibility. Martinson stresses the importance of remembering that spending money on new policies and procedures is not like replacing an inefficient computer system or purchasing a new air-conditioning unit.

"Environmental management and the dollars that go with it are a process," Martinson points out. "It's not something that you spend once, and then that's it - you're fixed. It's something that you spend on year in and year out, over and over, and more and more."

Audits and Evaluations

Keeping the company's environmental goals and budgets in mind, the first step toward separating the realistic and unrealistic objectives comes with completion and review of a thorough audit or evaluation. This provides a baseline measurement against which to measure progress. It documents a facility's existing emissions, discharges, waste management practices, and other environmental policies. …

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