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Over the last century, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has risen from 290 parts per million (ppm) to nearly 400 ppm. Although carbon is not the only greenhouse gas (GHG) issue in the wide span debate on climate change, it is the most common and a key measurement used by scientists across the globe to understand the severity and scope of climate change. Many of the services and products bought each day rely on the combustion of fossil fuels like coal and oil, which emit carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases when burned.
Regardless of where you or your company stand in the climate change debate, governments and leading companies have already begun taking action to reduce carbon emissions and improve the environmental performance of their operations. With the growing demand for environmentally friendly products and services, increased regulations from government, and the increasing costs associated with energy and water usage, companies are being required to choose to either adapt to the new carbon constrained world or accept the consequences.
Fortunately, there are several ways manufacturing companies can equip themselves for the greening marketplace. This article will discuss two such methods: getting your GHG inventory verified by an accredited, third-party organization, and implementing environmental management systems (EMS). Both of these solutions provide a means to measure and manage environmental performance, allowing companies to first understand their impacts and then take steps to improve their environmental performance.
ISO-14001 Registered Environmental Management SystemsWhether you are looking to reduce waste, increase efficiency, save money, or comply with existing and new regulations, implementing and registering an EMS will help you get there. ISO 14001 is a standard for environmental management systems that is applicable to any business, regardless of size, location or income. The aim of an ISO-14001-registered EMS is to reduce the environmental footprint, pollution and waste produced by businesses.
So how do you begin such an endeavor? Registering your EMS is no light task, so the best thing you can do is get with an expert. There are several accredited, third-party organizations out there that can register your EMS to ISO 14001. The Denver International Airport (DIA), for example, was the first commercial service U.S. airport to implement a facility-wide ISO 14001-registered EMS. To help them get there, they turned to NSF International Strategic Registrations (NSF-ISR)-a registrar that provides GHG validation/verification and ISO 14001 registrations-for help.
As the fifth busiest airport in the U.S., DIA had their work cut out for them. On top of demonstrating their commitment to environmental stewardship, the airport also found significant savings in implementing an ISO 14001-registered EMS. Some of these savings reported in their 2008 Annual Report include:
Becoming an environmentally fit organization doesn’t happen overnight. However, through implementing an ISO 14001-registered EMS, the DIA now has a systematic design to continually improve their environmental performance year after year. The airport sets new environmental benchmarks and utilizes their EMS to help achieve goals. You can look up more specifics about DIA’s environmental program here.
Partnering with an accredited registrar to register your EMS will help any company manage the environmental aspects of operations, products and services more efficiently, while taking into consideration environmental protection, pollution prevention and socio-economic needs.
Measure and Verify your Greenhouse Gas EmissionsAs the world continues to move toward a low-carbon economy, it is essential that companies identify their carbon footprint and understand the associated risks and opportunities that climate change poses. Basically, a carbon footprint is a measurement of the greenhouse gases (GHG) that a company produces.
Measuring a carbon footprint also enables manufacturers to spot opportunities for cost and energy savings. GHGs are closely linked to energy use, so measuring emissions can lead to ways to reduce emissions, which can in turn lead to cost savings. Also, as government regulations emerge, it becomes increasingly important for businesses to be aware of their emission levels in order to stay in compliance and avoid government fines and penalties.
President Obama recently reaffirmed his commitment to addressing climate change and implementing a cap and trade scheme, which would not only require companies to report their emissions, but also penalize companies that exceeded certain emission limits. In a Presidential Executive Order issued in October 2009, President Obama ordered federal government agencies to measure, manage and reduce greenhouse gas emissions toward agency-defined targets. This may seem like a tall order considering that federal agencies occupy nearly 500,000 buildings and purchase more than $500 billion per year in goods and services-but it only supports the certainty that governmental climate change policy will affect your business in some form.
In fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently finalized its mandatory GHG reporting rule that requires companies to report their 2009 GHG emissions in March 2010. Suppliers of fossil fuels or industrial greenhouse gases, manufacturers of vehicles and engines, and facilities that emit 25,000 metric tons or more per year of GHG emissions will now be responsible for submitting annual reports to the EPA.
As cap-and-trade regulations become reality, the importance of carbon offsets and carbon trading will continue to grow exponentially. Manufacturers that are more carbon efficient than their competitors will gain a competitive and financial advantage. According to statistics from the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA), the market value of world’s carbon trading reached $126.35 billion in 2008, up 100.6% from 2007.
In order for companies to ensure that they are properly identifying their carbon risks and opportunities, it is essential that carbon measurements are accurate and based on commonly agreed-upon standards. The best way to ensure this is to contract with an independent third-party that is accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) to verify GHG emission reports and validate or verify greenhouse gas offset projects. Be aware that many greenhouse gas reporting programs, such as The Climate Registry, require third-party verification of your data. Also, involving a third-party can give companies the confidence to share their carbon data with investors, customers and other stakeholders.
Being green isn’t easy. Implementing both an ISO 14001-registered environmental management systems and determining your greenhouse gas emissions are great solutions to setting your organization on the right track. Finding the balance between your business needs and the environment will not only help your company become more competitive, it will also identify opportunities for growth. Most companies may find that being green is a two-way street; what’s good for the environment can also be good for their bottom line.