The Best Green Test
Faced with a polluting and powerful industry, how
do you get the owners to change their ways? Green audits work well
for the Center for Science and Environment in Delhi. These began
about two years ago as a pilot project to rate the ecological performance
of paper mills, one of the dirtiest sectors in India. There was
no reliable official data, so the group decided to collect its own
statistics a daunting task.
Project coordinator Chandra Bhushan and his team went directly to
28 selected plants, which accounted for half of India's paper production.
Most were in conflict with the local people; one mill faced 26 suits
by citizens groups. Why would they cooperate? A carrot and stick
approach. First, CSE warned that companies refusing to disclose
relevant data would automatically be rated the worst. Then, as incentive,
it pledged to give special weighting to plants which were making
an effort to clean up. A team of 270 volunteers inspecting the sites
ensured reasonably accurate data in the final tally last year.
A dirty dozen plants got the worst "one-leaf" rating and none ranked
better than three (five is greenest). No surprises there. But the
study also showed how wasteful the processes were. For example,
an Indian plant uses some 300 tons of water to make one ton of paper
compared to 25 tons in industrialized nations. More importantly,
the survey, which also examined financial results, showed that greener
mills were more likely to have a healthy bottom line. "Companies
must plow back earnings into process efficiency," says Bhushan.
Managers are getting the message. Where there was only one plant
with the ISO 14001 stamp of clean production, now there are 14.
With such results, regulators could surely take a leaf out of CSE's
By Ritu Sarin
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