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Weekly Overview: Environmental Programme Is No Green-wash

14 November 2013

ANALYSIS - The ISO 14000 environmental management programme has brought real progress in sustainability in the firms awarded it, according to a new study - much-needed progress that has been brought into sharp focus following the devastating typhoon in the Philippines in the last week, writes Jackie Linden. Other recently published reports have focused on the most pressing needs of the poultry industries in India and Mozambique, while Nepal is suffering with multiple avian bird flu outbreaks.

Whatever your opinion on the impact of human activity on climate change, the devastation wrought by Typhoon Haiyan on the Philippines last week should focus our attention on making every attempt to reduce our environmental footprint as well as supporting the people there to rebuild their lives and businesses there in any way we can.

Researchers for the European Commission have found that the adoption of the ISO 14000 environmental management programme is not just an environmental whitewash - or 'greenwash' - but reflects a move towards more sustainable practices in both European and North American companies.

ISO 14000 is designed to help reduce environmental impacts produced by manufacturing businesses and among those sectors that have the greatest impact on the environment is food production.

Global food production occupies 25 per cent of all habitable land and is responsible for 70 per cent of fresh water consumption, 80 per cent of deforestation and 30 per cent of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Because of these impacts, the agri-food sector has to seek to make itself as efficient as possible.

It has been suggested that companies may use environmental management systems as greenwash – that they might adopt these systems purely as a marketing tool, hoping to win over consumers and other players in the market without having to invest in underlying green practices.

However, according to the latest European Commission study, companies in the EU and North America that had made more effort to implement the ISO 14000 also invested more in Environmental Supply Chain Management (ESCM) - for example, on pollution reduction, recycling and waste reduction measures.

While the results do not rule out the possibility of these systems being used as greenwash, the authors suggest that, overall, ISO 14000 leads to genuine environmentally friendly investment.

In other news, the poultry industry in India is in need of a major overhaul and massive investment if it is to meet the challenges ahead to address the demands of a growing population. As a result, there has been a new call for more investment in the sector.

A new report from Mozambique has highlighted the need to raise domestic production of feed and day-old chicks as well as greater co-operation and training in the poultry industry there. The country aims to double the recent rate of increase in per-capita chicken meat consumption.

And finally, turning to bird flu news, Nepal has reported 85 new outbreaks of H5N1 highly pathogenic avian flu, involving 1.4 million birds. There have been new outbreaks in Vietnamese poultry and further human cases have been reported in Cambodia and China. To close on better news, India has again declared itself bird flu-free.

Jackie Linden

Jackie Linden

Top image via Shutterstock

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