The "Green Wave" refers to one of the three elements of Corporate Sustainability. Corporate Sustainability is a business management strategy in which organizations measure their business success on economic, environmental, and social performance indicators. Today this triple bottom line has been embraced by many world-class companies. The European Union has adopted the concept of Sustainability and created directives to mandate corporate responsibility for products produced. Australia also focuses on corporate "Sustainability". US based and international organizations are finding that the path to world class status involves Sustainability.
Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS) professionals need to understand the principles that our corporate leaders expect. In some organizations, the leadership of Sustainability efforts has been placed with EHS management. This is because efforts to eliminate hazardous constituents in products, reducing waste, recycling of manufactured products and doing the right thing in regards to people inside and outside the corporation, also will reduce exposures and injuries to employees and the community. This paper will explore the environmental element of Sustainability, namely, what can be done to reduce the carbon footprint in any organization, how to reduce energy costs, how to reduce waste and how to keep hazardous chemicals from further impacting the earth. Practical examples will be used to help the EHS professional to apply these concepts in their own workplace and hopefully lead the eco-efficiency efforts.
The environmental aspects of Sustainability make sense for most EHS professionals, even those of us with a more safety related background can usually relate to ecological risks and benefits. For example, the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) has been promoting the benefits of Environmental Management Systems (EMS) for some time. Even though EMS is not a regulatory requirement per se in the US, many companies are already International Standards Organization (ISO) 14,001 certified. This is a proactive method of reducing or preventing eco-risks. The European Union has taken this a step further. In December of 2006, the EU passed the REACH directive (regulation). It went into effect on June 1, 2007. REACH stands for: Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals. The stated aim is to "improve the protection of human health and the environment through the better and earlier identification of the properties of chemical substances" (REACH 1). The concept is to give greater responsibility to industry to identify and manage risks from chemicals and provide safety information. It is initially a registry of information but it is expected to lead to the banning of certain hazardous chemicals in the future.
Two other recent EU directives do restrict or ban the use of hazardous materials in electronics. One, RoHS stands for Restriction of Hazardous Substances and applies to electrical and electronic equipment in the EU market after July 1, 2006. It restricts the level of six substances in such equipment. Those substances are: lead, cadmium, mercury, hexavalent chromium, polybrominated biphenyl (PBB) and polybrominated dipheny1ether (PBDE) flame-retardants. WEEE is the other EU directive.