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THE ELEVENTH HOUR

EVA DUBECKÁ 

Eight months ago, presidential candidate George W. Bush sounded like an environmental visionary. Campaigning for cleaner air and cleaner water, he promised to replace what he called a "30-year-old federal model" with a "new era of environmental protection."

Four months after taking office, President Bush looks like losing the environment-protective initiative… Rather than introducing a second generation of consensus-based environmental policy-making, he has ordered a suite of unilateral policy reversals, none of which has an environmental benefit, whatever else the merits may be…

Many would probably think of this as being another post-election political decision, but the issue is much more important than it may appear to be… we all are witnesses of a gradual but inevitable coming of a total collapse of the Earth’s environmental system… unless we do something… it’s the eleventh hour…

Scientists are very well aware of the bad state of the environment as well as of its causes and effects, yet a little was done to eliminate it. The pollution of air, water and soil, destruction of ecosystems, disappearance of many species of animals and plants, weather changes, acid rains, global warming of the Earth’s surface, destruction of tropical rainforests, breaking of the ozone layer, exhaustion of natural resources, toxic releases, hazardous waste and the like has not been caused by some natural processes but by the man himself and it will also be the man himself who will suffer the most by its consequences… therefore new form of environmental protection regulation has to begin to take hold around the world. We all could actually do our tiny bit, but that simply wouldn’t be enough; a global policy and attitude towards environmental protection must not be only an issue to talk about, but an active action must be immediately taken. That brings us to EMS or Environmental Management System, which is “organizational structure, responsibilities, practices, procedures, processes and resources for developing, implementing, reviewing and maintaining the environmental policy” and which continually contributes to achieving improvements in overall environmental performance of the organization. The importance of EMS to the environment stems from a fact that most goods and services produced by companies have an impact on health and safety of its employees, customers, surrounding communities, and most significantly on the global environment. The EMS simply implies the company’s responsibility for the end-of-life impact of its products; the organization must be liable for what happens all along the product life cycle, both before and after its work on a product is completed. The costs associated with these procedures are negligible in comparison with the benefits it brings to the company and society. More importantly, the use of EMS and the development of environmentally friendly products starts to be required as more and more pressure is put on organizations by customers, environmental groups, investors, shareholders and government, which are united in environmental causes and they desire “green” products (mostly in the West). Increasingly, customers are concerned with “pedigree” issues related to product’s origin, for example, were the rainforests destroyed, rivers polluted or workers poisoned to produce it? How much carbon dioxide was emitted to make it? etc. These pedigree features can on the one hand increase product value and provide a content for marketing campaigns, but on the other hand can be a subject of media attention and a target of criticism, which can cause a loss of reputation and business value. Some companies are already adopting environmental health and safety elements to their strategic management decisions (these include Texas Instruments, The Coca-Cola Company, Motorola, IBM, General Motors, Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, 3M, and many more), and it is important to notice that these also belong, which is no mere coincidence, to the most successful companies in the world, and indeed, world business leaders say that the financial strength of a company is increasingly tied to its environmental initiatives and no company can afford to overlook this reality. A wake-up call to organizations and government still feeling that they must choose between economy and environment was already made and it was already shown that the competitive advantage will be lost if the environment is not a key component of business strategy, and now it is up to managers to put the connection between business and environment, once a theoretical concept, into practice. The emerging issues associated with this change are likely to include packaging reductions, greater recovery and reuse of products (recycling programs), energy efficiency and the use of solar energy, elimination of greenhouse gases emissions, water shortages, decreasing use of ozone-depleting substances, hazardous chemicals and wood-derived products, etc.

 

Although many things have been already improved, it seems like what has been done is only a drop in the ocean. What we really need are companies, dedicated to environmental, health and safety excellence worldwide, to be not only an exception but rather become a rule.  Not only obeying the laws but calculating the environmental impact and reducing it should be an underlying key to winning customers and government grants and the environmental management should be required to become more central and in some cases also critical to the decision making process. Obstacles towards positive changes are not material – we already have the necessary knowledge, technology, and capital. The real challenge is in changing our way of thinking – we must break away from the widespread belief that bigger, faster, newer and more is always better, we need to reconsider what constitutes our wealth, change our attitude towards our place on Earth, and our responsibility for our future and the future of our children….

Bibliography:
-        
www.envirocomm.com
-         www.indeco.com
-         www.vanderbilt.com

 

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