The other week I was flipping through an old magazine in a doctor's office, and it was discussing the hot environmental issues of... 2007! It's funny, so much has changed, but really, we're all still struggling with the same issues.
We've been working with construction materials industry clients a lot ever since we opened the doors to this business, and we find the issues we see year after year virtually never change (with a few exceptions).
Consider these 9 areas that changed one way or the other over the past 5 years:
Consider the following 9 areas that have changed one way or the other over the past 5 years:
- Environmental Compliance Issues - We haven't had large number of real significant new environmental regulations arise during the past 5 years, but we still see the same basic environmental compliance issue problems that we were seeing in the past, such as facilities complying with stormwater permits or failing to conduct TRI Reporting. Plus, the economy has set industry back in their overall compliance efforts to a degree, so really progress here is minimal.
- Perception of Industry - I don't think that much has changed over the past 5 years, our reputation is still now what it could (and should!) be regarding environmental issues. Read the trade press - we still see a lot of negative press about environmental impacts, groups fighting against plant installations, third party lawsuits from environmental groups, regulators throwing the book at big organizations... It's time to get your act together, or prepare to be tomorrow's bad news.
- Sustainability - Five years ago, most of us weren't discussing sustainability. Now, we see organizations and associations pursuing sustainable certifications and conducting sustainability reporting en masse. This is going to be the movement that separates the leaders from the followers. If you think sustainability is a fad, you're sadly mistaken and get ready to watch your competitors eat the opportunity up.
- Green Building - Environmentally conscious development has been growing at an exponential rate compared to traditional construction, and we still have a lot of room to grow. This is one area where there has been a lot of positive change over the past 5 years. We've also seen drastic changes in the environmental quality of our products, along with the reduction of overall impacts associated with production. We're seeing more organizations analyze how they make their products, and starting to choose more environmentally conscious materials.
- Industry Involvement - Seems like this is an area that's taken a big hit due to the economy. Fewer people seem to be participating in the environmental and sustainability efforts of industry, since they either are back at the plant running things or else have had their travel budgets trimmed to the bone. Could this lack of involvement be detrimental to the overall effort? I think so. I'm seeing facilities lapse in basic environmental compliance because it's too expensive, or abandoning their environmental interests because it's not mandated. Again, for those that can stick it out and look ahead, there's big opportunity to be had.
- Interest Level - Another area that seems to have suffered significantly due to the economy. It seemed like 5 years ago we all were keenly interested in environmental issues, whether it was process water management or concrete recycling, reduced energy use, or one of many other pressing issues. Today, it seems like much of the excitement has dropped, as we strive to keep our companies afloat. I get it, I really do, but guys, when this economy turns around, someone is going to start making a lot of money for being an industry leader. We're going to see the weak die and the strong flourish.
- Government Response - Can you honestly say that during the past 5 years we have seen much change relative to environmental issues, or many significant progressive changes having taken place? For example, many states continue to disallow the use of process water back into concrete production, an environmentally forward practice. Have you seen environmental enforcement increase in your state, possibly driven by declining state budgets? We have in New Jersey. We're finding regulators are doing less and worse work, meaning there's more arguing over minute details as opposed to concentrating efforts for larger things.
- Marketing & Outreach - Some industry has done some really great things over the past 5 years - improving operations, reducing impacts associated with the production and manufacturing process, and generally becoming more environmentally friendly. But what are we doing about it? Are we letting people know and telling others? Are we using it to a market advantage to help with a poor economy? How many companies still don't have a website, or if they do, have little to nothing to say about environmental or sustainable practices? How many companies are still saying they sell a commodity or the internet is for kids? It's usually the same guys who bash having a web presence, but then turn to their cells for directions to a local restaurant they found online.
I'll get off the soapbox now. Sometimes taking a look backwards can be a great tool in guiding us to where we want to go. Sure, we've made some progress - during one of the worst economic downturns this country has ever seen - but we still have to keep moving forward. Hopefully, we can all continue to do this while preserving our economic integrity - in other words, let's continue to strive to balance economy and the environment. I would really like to hear your thoughts on this one! If you're interested in talking about your hopes and goals for 2012, or need some assistance with maintaining your environmental program, click here to contact us or give us a call at 609-693-8301 today.