Business Matters

by Carolyn Chase


hy should businesses be involved in observing Earth Day next week? Earth Day provides opportunities to be a part of creating solutions that work for both the economy and the environment.
Businesses matter. Although governments and individuals have made considerable environmental progress over the last 25 years by legislation and individual action, it is widely agreed that further dramatic progress will not be accomplished through legislation or individual action alone. Successful solutions to environmental problems depend on the willingness of corporations, their management and employees, to lead in the transition to a more ecologically sound economy.

In his book Mid-Course Correction, Ray Anderson, CEO of Interface Inc., puts it this way: " and industry, together the largest, wealthiest, most powerful, most pervasive institution on Earth, and the one doing the most damage, must take the lead in directing Earth away from the route it is on toward the abyss of man-made collapse. . . unless somebody leads, nobody will."

Corporations exert an influence over human decisions and behaviors that is often as profound if not more so, as that of schools, governments or even religious communities. It is becoming more and more imperative that businesses move that influence into environmentally sustainable practices and investments.
Environmental progress is important to the bottom line and essential to healthy economies and prosperous communities. Both public and private commitments are required to make environmental progress for the good of all.

What about environmental progress? Most people agree that we should "do the right things." But when it comes down to paying for it and changing existing systems, the commitment wanes. Cleaning up problems is expensive. Better would be not to make messes in the first place. Prevention is still the best investment.

But it is still difficult for some businesses to comprehend that environmental management does not start at the end of the waste stream; it begins in the design process. It is far more prudent and efficient to build environmental management into systems rather than adding it as an after thought.

Until recently, most companies and organizations relied on a variety of environmental management methods/philosophies - including ignorance and denial. Chaos in environmental management continues to be a barrier to expanding international trade and has created a heightened awareness for the need to develop an international voluntary standard for environmental management systems (EMS).

In September 1996, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), consisting of representatives from industry, government, non-governmental organizations (NGO's), and other entities, finalized the ISO 14001 EMS standard. This standard provides a single framework for EMS design that can accommodate various organizational applications worldwide.

ISO 14001 is not a management "program of the month." It is a finite environmental management system and international standard designed to provide consistent and systematic control of procedures, operations, products and services that may have a potentially significant impact on the environment.

In addition to improving an organization's environmental performance, implementation of an EMS can also identify costly waste streams that, if eliminated, could feasibly increase production and company profits. Organizations that effectively integrate an ISO 14001 EMS with it's other business management systems are on the right track toward improved performance and innovation.

Learning about EMS systems is just one of the ways that businesses can observe Earth Day. Earth week provides many opportunities for people to get together to discuss practical ways to create a sustainable, quality future for the San Diego region.

On Wednesday, April 21, San Diego EarthWorks and Sullivan Environmental Solutions are hosting a "Earth Day Business Breakfast" at 7:45AM at the Handlery Hotel in Mission Valley entitled: "The Future of Environmental Management Systems: A shift from governmental oversight." Keynote speaker Isis Fredericks is one of the world's leading experts on environmental management systems and their benefits. She has developed ISO-based management systems internationally in the manufacturing and service industries.

On Earth Day, April 22, San Diego EarthWorks will host the ninth annual VIP (Very Important Planet) Reception and EARTH Awards from 6-9pm. This occasion provides an opportunity for business, community, and government leaders to make the connections between our actions now and a healthy, prosperous and sustainable future. The City of San Diego Environmental Services Department will present their Recycling and Waste Reduction Awards. The San Diego Air Pollution Control District will present their Clean Air Awards and San Diego EarthWorks will present their EARTH Awards (Environmental Action and Restoration That Helps).

The evening will begin with a world buffet dinner, provided by local San Diego restaurants and members of the Green Restaurant Association, and an "earth-friendly" silent auction to benefit San Diego EarthWorks. Following the informal part of the evening will be the Awards Ceremony. Local businesses, organizations and individuals will be honored for their practical accomplishments toward a healthy, prosperous and sustainable San Diego.

The reception will be held at the City of San Diego Environmental Services Building located at 6901 Ridgehaven Court in Kearny Mesa. This award winning "green" building is one of the top ten most energy efficient and environmentally friendly buildings in the country. Featuring recycled (and recyclable) squares of carpet (leased, as it turns out, from Interface) that can be rotated from heavy traffic areas, motion and temperature sensitive lighting, motion sensitive heating and air conditioning, this building has saved more than 52% in utility costs compared to the non-refurbished twin building next door.

Co-sponsors include Solar Turbines, the City of San Environmental Services Department, Green Mountain Energy, the Air Pollution Control District, ST Microelectronics, Sullivan Environmental Solutions, the Industrial Environmental Association and the San Diego Earth Times.

Co-host of these Earth week events is San Diego EarthWorks, a non-profit 501(c)(3) California corporation, is a network of volunteers in service to a healthy, prosperous and sustainable future for all living things. Volunteers produce the annual EarthFair in Balboa Park, organize habitat restoration projects throughout San Diego County year-round, and host events that inform and educate people about environmental issues. Visit their website at