February 23, 2004

Commentary: Key international forum brings executives up to date on environmental management

By: Colin Isaacs
The World Economic Forum, held recently in Davos, Switzerland, is attended by leaders of government and industry from all over the world. Similar hemispheric economic forums are attended by the top decision-makers from every sector of the economy, yet key hemispheric environmental forums often attract only a few executives of similar calibre.

There is ample evidence that companies which are successful in achieving environmental goals and in reducing environmental costs and liabilities are those that have integrated environmental performance into every aspect of their planning and operations. Those that have an environmental department which reviews proposals only after they have been developed by others are still learning that this causes expensive battles between the environmental team and the rest of the company.

Ottawa's new administration also recognizes that pitting environment against economic ministries such as natural resources, agriculture, and industry is not a mechanism that will achieve effective, efficient and innovative policies.

The recent Throne Speech promised to start incorporating key indicators on clean water, clean air and emissions reduction into decision-making. If key environmental measures can be incorporated into development and evaluation of activities in all departments it should not be too long before we see federal policies and programs that are much more responsive to Canada's environmental objectives.

The concept of integrating environment with economic and other decision-making is not as complex as it sounds. Every executive and manager understands the concept of cost as it applies to all of their responsibilities. So it should be with environment. That means that every senior executive and manager needs to understand environment as well as he or she understands the economy.

The key opportunity to see where the business world is going when it comes to environment-the hemispheric equivalent to a Davos for the environment-is a biennial event in Vancouver called Globe. The 8th edition, Globe 2004, is being held from March 31st to April 2nd. Its triple themes of Corporate Sustainability, The Business of Building Better Cities, and Energy and Climate Change are of particular relevance in light of the Throne Speech commitments in these areas.

Globe 2004, drawing more than 2,000 international leaders in business and the environment, affords executives and managers an outstanding opportunity to learn about-and, for the more informed, to catch up on-the latest in environmental technology and management from all over the world. Senior executives, not just environmental managers, of every Canadian company, province and municipality should be going to Globe.

More information is available on the Globe 2004 Web site, www.globe2004.com.

Colin Isaacs, head of the CIAL Group and publisher of the Gallon Environment Letter, reviews environment-related trends in policy (government and corporate) and legislation for ELW. Comments may be E-mailed to cisaacs@compuserve.com.

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