Al Gore's book "An Inconvenient Truth" awakened us to how our life styles and our business practices are impacting our world; accelerating pace of melting polar ice caps, rising seas, toxic chemicals in our water & food supplies, climate changes (floods & droughts), limited access to resources. We are now requiring a personal and professional environmental accountability for our actions. The process of manufacturing, distribution, and disposal of or recycling of products is going green, but green jobs are not necessarily safe jobs. These changes provide opportunities for the safety professional in the areas of: the health and safety, product safety, and environmental protection.

Sustainable Culture & Business

Sustainability is defined as: Economic development that takes full account of the environmental consequences of economic activity and is based on the use of resources that can be replaced or renewed and therefore are not depleted. Sustainability is often referred to as "Greening."

Greening means;

  1. reduce the use of hazardous products and materials in housekeeping or maintenance (also reduces the amount of hazardous wastes needing to be disposed),

  2. use more energy efficient equipment in heating, cooling, and lighting as well as construction materials,

  3. recycle electronic goods, building materials from renovation projects (example rubble for future projects or unpainted wood turned into mulch) and share usable windows & plumbing supplies with the needy,

  4. use reusable products,

  5. use energy-efficient or alternative-fuel vehicles,

  6. practice energy and environmental conservation (ride share programs & "work at home" programs to minimize travel/traffic),

  7. water conservation, and

  8. Participate in community environmental initiatives.

Scientists feel that the burning of carbon-based fuels to produce energy contributes heavily to increase of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases in the atmosphere which are responsible for the changes in our weather patterns, global warming, and a deterioration of our health. Many people (only 4% of US adults) do not realize that buildings were the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Companies understand their "Brand Value" is affected by society's perception of their stewardship for our natural resources. They see greening as an opportunity to maximize ROI and increase brand equity. Carbon Trust, an independent company, states "tackling climate change could create opportunities for a company to increase its value by up to 80% if they are well positioned and proactive". Companies are transforming their business models and are talking in terms of the "Triple Bottom-line"; profit, the planet, and people.

Government Initiatives

The Kyoto Protocol was adopted in December 1997. In 2007, the Securities and Exchange Commission was approached by leaders in 17 states requesting all publicly held companies be required to disclose their full environmental liabilities to all potential investors. In 2007, nine Midwestern governors signed the Midwestern Regional Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord with significant reductions targeted in carbon dioxide. Beginning January 2008 California is tripling fines for diesel vehicle idling and will prevent registration of units with outstanding citations.

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