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October 16, 2002

Adding value to 'green' business

By Daniel Fiorino and Marcia Seidner

Corporations that demonstrate responsible environmental citizenship tend to be perceived well in the eyes of local communities, consumers, suppliers, distributors, and investors - all of which translates into stronger bottom lines. Now, a voluntary compliance program initiated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) adds value to the competitive advantage already enjoyed by leading environmentally responsible companies.

The program, the National Environmental Performance Track, encourages and rewards companies that exhibit high environmental performance that goes beyond regulatory compliance. Performance Track provides companies with recognition, regulatory and administrative flexibility, and a more collaborative relationship with regulators.

Business Council members Henkel Loctite, Nucor Steel, IBM, Ortho-Clinical Diagnostics and Dresser-Rand represent a few of the New York companies participating in the Performance Track program

Performance Track companies go beyond environmental regulatory commitments by installing new equipment, improving processes, recycling, and reducing the use of hazardous chemicals. Members understand that up-front investments make good business and environmental sense.

Nucor Steel Auburn is working to decrease waste from its scrap steel recycling process by recovering zinc in its baghouse dust for beneficial uses, such as vitamin supplements.

"We pay dearly to have the zinc recovered," said Steve Green, Nucor's environmental manager. "If Nucor wanted to save money, we could opt for the less environmentally friendly method of encasing the dust in concrete and then shipping it offsite to a landfill."

The program offers a variety of incentives. The first is public recognition. Program membership includes listing on EPA's Web site and mention in feature articles, case studies, and promotional materials. Participants can display the program logo and use it in communications with outside parties.

"The Performance Track logo is a signal that the facility is responsible, and displaying it has positive value for the company," said Jane Kenny, EPA Region 2 Administrator.

"As aggressive and proactive stewards of the environment, we are honored to be part of the program," said Rex Query, vice president and general manager of Nucor."That's why we recently added the Performance Track logo to our company letterhead."

Participants are also considered low-priority for routine EPA inspections.

To motivate more facilities to commit to greater environmental performance and to offer additional incentives to participants, EPA proposed a rulemaking on August 13, 2002 which will offer benefits, such as reduced reporting under the Clean Water Act, greater flexibility under the Clean Air Act, and extended onsite accumulation times for hazardous waste generators.

Another benefit is participation in meetings with senior EPA officials, special invitation conferences and networks to share best practices.

So far, more than 120 companies, representing almost 300 facilities, have qualified as members of Performance Track. Participants range from small local businesses to large multinational corporations, and cover almost every state. They represent a number of manufacturing sectors: chemicals; rubber and plastics; metal; industrial, transportation, and electronic equipment; instruments; and textile, wood, paper, and printing products.

"Performance Track is consistent with our corporate environmental policy and helps us focus on the environmental aspects of our business," said Dan Chess, environmental engineer at Thomas J. Watson Research. "Because IBM has attained ISO 14001 certification, joining Performance Track was a logical next step."

To qualify for Performance Track, applicants must have:

The current application period opened August 1, 2002, and closes October 31, 2002. The next application period is Feb. 1-April 30, 2003. For more information, visit www.epa.gov/performancetrack, or contact the Performance Track Information Center at ptrack@indecon.com or 888-339-7875.

Daniel Fiorino is the director of EPA's Performance Incentives Division and program manager for the National Environmental Performance Track. Marcia Seidner is the EPA Region II Performance Track Program Coordinator (seidner.marcia@epa.gov).