ASQ - Energy and Environmental Division

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Industry: Looking at the past to see the future
Academe: Best management practices for mining: Australian initiative
ISO: Hope for the Millennium


Looking at the past to see the future
by Bill Wiatt, senior consultant with Excel Partnership, Inc.

The beginning of a new century and new millennium seems like a good time to reflect on the past and look forward to the future. In reflecting on the recent past, three industry trends come to mind. These trends taken together may provide some insight on what the future has in store for those of us working with management systems and business process improvement.

  • International Management System Standards – We have seen significant advancement in the development and use of international standards to improve the management of core business functions. During the ’90s, industry embraced the use of ISO 9000 and the development of new standards for environmental protection (ISO 14000), employee health and safety (OHSAS 18001, BS 7750 & SA 8000), and labor/community relations (SA 8000).
  • Public Awareness – We have also seen the public become increasingly concerned and aware of issues involved in global business. Environmental concerns with NAFTA, the Kathy Lee Gifford child labor scandal, and the recent protests in Seattle are all stark reminders that the public is watching and has become very active in the management of global business issues.
  • Technologic Innovation – The ’90s clearly brought us increased business productivity through the use of new and innovative technologies.

So what does the future hold? If these three trends continue and converge, then we may reasonably expect to see broadening acceptance of international management system standards by both business and the public and the use of innovative technologies for efficient and effective system implementation.


Best management practices for mining: Australian initiative
by Tony Szwilski, Ph.D., P.E., Marshall University

The litigation and public controversy involving mountaintop mining in West Virginia have highlighted the importance of communication between the coal industry and its primary stakeholders. There is a growing need for state and federal regulatory authorities and the mining industry to partner to determine innovative environmental policy necessary for long-term solutions for environmental protection. There are numerous ongoing initiatives from which to learn: development of green permits in the states of Oregon and Wisconsin and the mining industry working with government in other countries.

The Australian Environmental Protection Agency has partnered with the mining industry to publish a series of very useful modules and videos that demonstrate the best practices of the leading environmental managers in mining and energy production in Australia. At the International Association of Impact Assessment (IAIA) meeting in Ottawa 1994, attended by representatives from the World Bank and the United Nations Environmental Program, Australia was asked to take the lead in showcasing examples of best environmental practice in all aspects of the mining industry. Best management practices (BMPs) are a discrete set of processes and procedures involved in the production of a product and/or service. As described in the published overview module (1995), The Best Practice Environmental Management in Mining focuses on the principle of environmental impact assessment and environmental management. Utilizing case studies, it demonstrates how these principles can be integrated through all phases of resource development from resource planning through construction, operation, closure, and postmining monitoring and maintenance. This was the first attempt by the Australian mining industry in benchmarking environmental performance across a broad range of mining life-cycle issues with a view to encourage further improvements in environmental performance.

The mine planning module examines how mine planning for environmental protection can help mining projects meet community expectations for minimal environmental impacts. Factors taken into account are air, water quality, noise, transport, biological resources, socioeconomic issues, and land use. In the module, the term best practice in mine planning for environmental protection is defined as "the application of a process of continuous testing and evaluation of different mine design options to satisfy community expectations, government requirements, engineering and costs considerations, and the condition of minimal environmental impacts." Mine plans are evaluated through a public environmental assessment process. An effective environmental management system will be able to provide continuous feedback by which BMPs can be reviewed, modified, and enhanced. Experiences in other industries are demonstrating that environmental management systems and ISO 14000 standards are credible management tools with the potential to improve environmental protection and mining operational effectiveness over the long term.


Hope for the millennium
by Joe Cascio, chairman for US TAG to ISO/TC 207

The publication of the ISO 14001 Environmental Management System standard in 1996 by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) ushered in a new era of environmental care. Organizations can now follow the prescribed ISO 14001 framework to implement a proactive, voluntary discipline to change the sensitivity and motivation of their employees, increase process and operational efficiencies, and benefit the environment and the conservation of natural resources. The end goal of ISO 14001 is in fact nothing less than to anchor the environmental ethic by changing internal cultures of organizations to align more closely with today’s consensus for preserving the natural environment through sustainable economic and social progress.

Prior to the advent of ISO 14001, organizations demonstrated their care for the environment by ensuring their compliance with regulatory requirements. Various voluntary programs from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) were and still are based on compliance with requirements. Organizations that achieve compliance with an extra margin of safety are accorded governmental recognition that under some circumstances may provide, in theory, some measure of regulatory discretion.

While regulatory compliance is still important under the ISO 14001 approach, it is not the major driver for implementing an environmental management system. ISO 14001 accords regulatory compliance its rightful importance, but the emphasis is on implementing fully integrated, process-focused systems that rely on employee awareness and commitment to address all significant environmental issues of the organization, not just those that have been captured by government regulation. Some of these other issues include reduced energy and water usage, natural resources and materials conservation, environmentally conscious product and process design, materials substitution, recycling and reuse, as well as improved transportation and operational efficiencies. These parameters have a vast impact on the environmental consequences of an organization and yet are mostly beyond the reach of government regulations. Just as important for the organization, these issues also have a bottom line impact that in some cases may mean the difference between economic viability and demise.

The international community has recognized the significance of ISO 14001 and has accorded to it a high degree of deference and respect. ISO 14001 is becoming a condition of international trade and of business relationships between suppliers and major industrial customers. It is somewhat sad, therefore, that the regulatory community has not yet seen the broader vision of ISO 14001. Regulators appear to be mired in what now appears to be, from the ISO 14001 perspective, a complementary but incomplete set of concerns amenable to regulatory approaches. Issues that do not lend themselves to such regimen are simply left out of that universe. It is rather ironic that the broader vision for environmental care should have originated within industry and not with those that have been charged with creating the framework and the programs to attain the goal of environmental care in our society. But, let us not lose hope. The new millennium may yet bring with it a fresh outlook and a new enlightenment. We can certainly hope for it; and while it is said that hope springs eternal, I believe that we will not be left to wait in eternal disappointment. At least I hope not.

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