New Bottom Line Volume 3.14 – Voluntary Government Programs Support Business Environmental Efficiency

July 26, 1994

Growing numbers of companies recognize the value of environmental quality and efficiency (EQE) programs–both to overall environmental quality and to the company’s own bottom line–implementing those programs is not always an easy matter. But while the basic concepts of what to do are generally clear, the technical details may not be. And because most managers already have more than enough to do without tracking down those details, many worthwhile efficiency initiatives never make it out of the starting gate.

To address this problem, the US Department of Energy (DOE), the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) and other agencies offer dozens of voluntary programs for training, technical assistance, funding and public recognition for voluntary energy and resource efficiency programs.

This column focuses on a few of these voluntary programs. While these programs are specific the the United States, readers in other countries might want to consider them as examples of an effective way that government and business can work together for both greater environmental quality and business success.

(A more complete listing of the US programs is contained in “Making your Business More Eco-Efficient: Federal Assistance Programs for Environmental Enhancement and Energy Efficiency Projects,” a new report by Holly Henning of the Business for Social Responsibility Education Fund. The report will be available in September for $25 plus postage, from BSR/EF, 1030 15th Street NW, Suite 1010, Washington DC 20005. Tel: +1-202-842-5400, fax +1-202-842-3135.)

The BSR report highlights five types of programs:

  • voluntary programs that encourage businesses to participate in pollution prevention;
  • grant and technical assistance programs fro process and/or productivity improvements;
  • regulatory assistance programs to assist businesses with regulatory compliance;
  • new technology development programs that include research and development of new technologies and commercialization opportunities;
  • sector-specific programs that offer in-depth technical assistance to specific industries.

The first and probably most widely engaged of these programs, Green Lights, asks participating companies–now including many of the Fortune 500– to agree to upgrade the lighting in 90% of square footage that can be upgraded profitably without compromising lighting quality. In return, participating companies gain access to technical support, including workshops, a technical information hotline, decision support software, financing directory, and a public recognition program.

Energy Star Buildings provides technical assistance in implementing Green Lights, tuning up existing HVAC systems, and investing in HVAC efficiency improvements. Qualifying buildings may be designated as “showcase” buildings.

The Energy Star Computers program provides the Energy Star logo to computers and monitors that power down when not in use. End users benefit from the energy savings; computer manufacturers benefit from the marketing boost of the Energy Star logo.

Information on these three programs is available from US EPA, 401 M Street SW, Washington DC 20460. Telephone +1-202-775-6650, fax +1-202-775-6680. Or you can call a 24 hour a day “fax back” information line at +1-202-775-9659 to receive faxed information.

The Climate-Wise program focuses on reducing “greenhouse gas” emissions–the various hydrocarbons and other substances that contribute to global warming. Participating companies that commit to greenhouse gas reductions and energy efficiency improvements (two benefits that can often be had for the price of one) will be supported with public recognition, technical resources, workshops and other services. For details, contact Pamela Herman at US EPA / OPPE (2126), tel +1-202-260-0447, fax +1-202-260-0512 or Gerald Kotas at US DoE/Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EE-1), 1000 Independence Avenue NW, Washington DC 20585, tel: 202-586-9220, fax +1-202-586-9620. (Climate Wise is one of 24 programs in the DOE’s Climate Change Action Plan. Information on other programs is available from The Green Room, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, DOE, Washington DC 20585. Tel: +1-202-586-5741, fax: +1-202-586-9851.)

Waste Wi$e is focused on waste reduction and recycling. Participating companies pledge to achieve specified results in waste prevention, recycling collection, and procurement of recycled products. How-to publications, and electronic bulletin board and a telephone hotline (1-800-EPA-WISE) provide technical assistance . Participants will be highlighted in the press, will be authorized to use WasteWi$e logo in advertising. Contact WasteWi$e, US EPA.

The Industrial Toxics (33/50) Program aims at a 50% reduction in 17 key toxic chemicals by 1995. Participating companies set their own goals for how their company will contribute to the national goals. The program sponsors cooperative research, workshops and conferences, and certifies company participation and progress. For information, contact 33/50 Program (Mail Code 7408), US EPA, tel +1-202-260-6907, fax +1-202-260-2219.

In a future column, we’ll highlight some of the other grant and technical assistance programs, like Motor Challenge and Design for Environment. In the meantime, you might sign up for a few of these.

(c) 1994 Gil Friend. All rights reserved.

New Bottom Line is published periodically by Natural Logic, offering decision support software and strategic consulting that help companies and communities prosper by embedding the laws of nature at the heart of enterprise.

Gil Friend, systems ecologist and business strategist, is President and CEO of Natural Logic, Inc.

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