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should guide growth

Environmental quality
should guide growth

After being ignored by U.S. companies, W. Edwards Deming went to a more accepting climate and helped revolutionize Japan’s industry. Ultimately, his total quality management methods would return to the United States. Many Rochester-area businesses now are using these principles to improve their companies and profits.
Today, a new set of seemingly radical ideas faces businesses in both the United States and the Rochester region: applying environmental quality standards to operations, products and companies. Work on total quality environmental standards–ISO 14001–is under way. In addition, groups around the world are adopting efforts to stop squandering the world’s resources through inefficiency and waste.
These initiatives, like the TQM efforts, offer opportunities for businesses to increase profits, ensure they can remain in business, make their operations more efficient and improve the world they live in. They also will help local companies remain globally competitive.
On Oct. 29-31, I will attend an international forum in San Jose, Costa Rica, to address “New Partnerships to Reduce the Buildup of Greenhouse Gases.” Recent examinations have affirmed the warnings by the international scientific community of a discernible human influence on global climate. This proves a scientific underpinning for policies that seek to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and enhance natural ecosystems.
The threat of human-induced climate change challenges the world community to build scientific, political and methodological consensus on viable economic options that reduce the risks presented by such change.
These concerns are not just environmental concerns, but business concerns. The Costa Rican conference is sponsored by the United Nations Environment Programme, with the Earth Council and the government of Costa Rica, and an initiative called Activities Implemented Jointly.
This forum will include feedback concerning the 1-year-old U.S. Initiative on Joint Implementation. This pilot project encourages organizations here and in other countries to implement projects that reduce, avoid or sequester greenhouse-gas emissions. It has enjoyed widespread support among utilities, industries and non-governmental organizations interested in finding low-cost options for reducing the emissions.
The first round of projects–seven projects representing $40 million in private investment–was approved in February 1995. The projects covered a wide variety of renewable-energy, fuel- switching and land-use approaches. The second round–an additional eight projects–was approved in December 1995.
The projects include a wind-power generating facility in Costa Rica to displace electricity created by burning fossil fuels. Another Costa Rican project targets preserving or developing forests that will help remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Second-round projects include a geothermal project in Nicaragua and a hydroelectric plant in Costa Rica. Other projects are located in the Czech Republic, Russia and Honduras.
Major U.S. companies and utilities, such as Wisconsin Electric Power Co. and Detroit Edison Co., have joined the efforts.
The U.S. Initiative on Joint Implementation is part of an international pilot program that offers the potential to achieve greater emission reductions than would be possible if each country pursued only domestic actions. It also spurs technology cooperation, increasing developing countries’ access to energy-efficient and renewable-energy technologies. These activities could stimulate export markets for industrialized countries.
The Climate Change Action Plan will achieve the goal–with domestic action alone–of returning U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2000. The plan sets standards and levels that U.S. industry must meet. The program also offers pollution credits, however, for efforts the companies make to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions in developing countries.
The USIJI also seeks to encourage sustainable-development programs. The concept of sustainable development involves meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. An example might be if you catch 1,000 fish a day and nature replenishes only 500 fish a day–your fishing industry is on a downward spiral. The same holds true for other natural resources and raw materials.
Take the earth’s oil supply. It has been estimated that at current consumption rates, the earth’s oil will not last many more decades.
Why should a businessperson care? Well, does your business rely on oil, gasoline or plastics? How will you build your products if you can not afford or even find petroleum-based products? If your energy costs double or triple, what happens to your production costs?
Our local companies involved in TQM strive to reduce waste and inefficiency. Pollution, in fact, results from inefficiency and produces waste. Pollution’s hidden costs and wasted resources and efforts occur throughout a product’s life cycle.
Like defects in the manufacturing process, pollution often reveals flaws in the product design or production process. Efforts to eliminate pollution can follow the same basic principles used in quality programs.
When scrap, harmful substances or energy forms are discharged into the environment as pollution, it signals that resources have been used incompletely, inefficiently or ineffectively. In addition, the pollution requires companies to spend money to clean up the mess. This adds to the production costs without providing any additional value.
Properly designed environmental standards can trigger innovations that lower the total cost of a product or improve its value. Ultimately, this makes companies more competitive.
I am excited about the opportunities presented by this upcoming conference to gather more information about global warming and sustainable development. There will be 100 participants from around the world at this roundtable forum.
After I return, I would like to organize a sustainable-development conference in Rochester to learn about the progress of the innovative pilot projects.
There are business opportunities directly linked to sustainable development. An established forum tracking these projects in Rochester will allow our companies to compete internationally as global environmental quality standards take effect.
(Lila Bluestone, president of Recycling Works!, is an environmental consultant and trainer.)

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