||By Daniel Fiorino, PhD, Director, EPA's Performance Track Program
Reduced costs, public recognition, and a growing range of regulatory and administrative incentives are just some of the benefits that electronics manufacturers may receive by joining the National Environmental Performance Track, a program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Since June 2000, Performance Track has been forging a new pathway for environmental protection, one that complements regulatory approaches with new tools and strategies that recognize and drive environmental excellence. EPA designed the program to help move the curve in environmental performance — to encourage businesses to do more than the minimum, with the expectation that, working together, government and industry will continuously raise the bar that defines an environmental leader.
To be admitted to Performance Track, facilities must have a history of sustained compliance with environmental laws, an independently assessed Environmental Management System, and a commitment to community outreach. They must publicly commit to four environmental goals that extend beyond their legal requirements. The roughly 450 facilities currently in the program are working to achieve more than 1,500 environmental goals, setting standards for themselves that go beyond compliance and that in turn set an example for others. Many of these public goals address important environmental issues that are not covered by current regulations, such as greenhouse gas emissions, water use, and energy use.
EPA Highly Effective
EPA's traditional regulatory system has been remarkably effective over the past 35 years, resulting in cleaner air, water, and soil for all Americans. But as the Agency grapples with increasingly complex environmental problems, it has become clear that regulations are not the only way to achieve its goals. EPA has begun to embrace flexible and innovative approaches to protecting the environment and human health — approaches such as Performance Track that promote a culture of collaboration and empower communities, businesses, and government to work together to solve problems.
Winning with Environmental Excellence
In today's global marketplace, simply having a great product may not cut it anymore. Consumers and clients increasingly factor social and environmental concerns into their purchasing decisions, and many companies now see business value in being responsible corporate citizens. Membership in Performance Track offers visible proof of exceptional environmental performance, providing a competitive edge for companies with facilities in the program.
This competitive advantage is strengthened by the fact that four prominent social investment firms, Calvert Group, Innovest Strategic Value Advisors, KLD Research & Analytics, Inc., and Trucost, Plc., all use Performance Track data in their research methods. These firms find Performance Track data to be one effective measure in assessing a company's value and overall environmental performance. Apart from the branding and marketing benefits, many Performance Track members have found that staying ahead of the curve just makes good business sense in terms of reduced energy, waste disposal, packaging, and other costs. For example, Hewlett-Packard's Covallis, Oregon plant, which develops and produces inkjet printing technologies, has saved more than $1.5 million in electricity costs since joining Performance Track in 2005. Overall, the facility has saved nearly $4 million in energy costs since the year 2000 by implementing improvements identified in energy audits and suggestions from employees. Another Hewlett-Packard facility in Performance Track, HP Caribe in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, generated $1.9 million from the sale of recyclable material while increasing the amount of non-hazardous waste diverted from landfills from 46 percent in 1998 to 79 percent in 2003.
A "Win" for EPA
One of Performance Track's key environmental benefits is its ability to promote voluntary progress on essentially unregulated areas, such as materials use, water use, energy use, habitat preservation, and greenhouse gas emissions. By partnering with facilities that are willing to tackle these issues, EPA achieves substantial results without imposing additional regulations. To date, Performance Track members have cumulatively reduced their water use by 3.5 billion gallons, greenhouse gas emissions by 97,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, hazardous waste generation by 130,000 tons, and non- hazardous generation by 600,000 tons. Members have also restored or protected more than 14,000 acres of habitat.
But the main reason Performance Track is a "win" for EPA is that it helps raise the bar of environmental performance. Businesses that want to be seen as environmental leaders enroll their facilities in the program and make public commitments to the environment. EPA has watched what happens when one company in an industry sector commits to Performance Track: suddenly, interest among its competitors spikes, and soon a number of other facilities from the same sector apply to join the program. In this way, competition for public recognition creates lasting benefits for the environment.
Learning from Top Performers
Through Performance Track, EPA has created a vast learning network for members, for EPA, and states. Performance Track holds meetings between members and EPA state, regional, and federal officials to discuss the challenges and opportunities involved in improving environmental performance. As a follow-up to a meeting with EPA and Performance Track members in September of 2004, for example, EPA worked to develop a process that expedites the review of certain permits held by Performance Track members. Because Performance Track facilities are motivated and willing to help the Agency test new ideas to protect public health and the environment, EPA has issued rules that allow members to increase their storage time for hazardous waste, which cuts transportation costs, energy use, and air emissions without sacrificing environmental protection. EPA has also developed expedited, flexible air permits for Performance Track members that provide advance approvals and opportunities for enhancing environmental outcomes while eliminating unnecessary transaction costs.
Performance Track members and EPA learn from each other in several other ways, including an annual members' event, periodic regional meetings, and bimonthly telephone seminars on timely and relevant topics, such as increasing community involvement; using lean manufacturing to improve environmental performance; learning how lifecycle assessments can help facilities; and learning how to work within a facility's watershed. EPA also visits several facilities each year as a channel to both verify information presented in a facility's application or performance report and to facilitate discussions on how to improve our joint environmental protection goals.
Inspiring the Next Generation
With Performance Track and other innovative partnership programs, EPA is working to inspire the next generation of environmental protection — shifting from a focus on pollution control to a comprehensive approach to environmental problem-solving, using all the tools science and business make available to us. The environmental protection system of the future uses market-based incentives that link environmental and economic objectives, similar to approaches used in the business world.
We are confident that Performance Track members will continue to yield real, tangible results that improve their profitability, the environment, and their relationships with local communities across the nation. Performance Track members are at the forefront of innovation and environmental stewardship, fundamentally
strengthening the relationship between business and government, and improving the ability of government itself to solve environmental problems.
For more information, contact: The Performance Track Information Center, c/o Industrial Economics Incorporated, 2067 Massachusetts Avenue, 4th Floor Cambridge, MA 02140 888-339-7875 fax: 617-354-0463 Web: http://www.epa.gov/perftrac