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November 02, 2001
EPA Program Recognizes Better Corporate Environmental Performance
    by Trevor Snorek-Yates

Performance Track motivates and rewards businesses that exceed EPA's environmental standards.

The National Environmental Performance Track program, launched by the EPA in June of 2000, recognizes the companies and facilities whose environmental performance surpasses the minimum standards set by the government. This program, designed to build a more positive relationship between EPA and industry, recognizes organizations for efforts to improve their environmental performance beyond legal compliance.

Open to facilities of all sizes, public or private, manufacturing or service-oriented, Performance Track requires participants to have an environmental management system in place, a history of sustained compliance, a foundation of community outreach, and a commitment to continuous environmental improvement.

At this time, 251 facilities (listed on the website) have been accepted as Performance Track participants with 300 anticipated by 2002. The company with the most Performance Track facilities by far is Johnson & Johnson (ticker: JNJ), with over 50. Other companies include toolmaker Snap-On (SNA), with 9 facilities, IBM (IBM) with 7 facilities, and 3M (MMM) with 5 facilities.

" Industry responded positively to the announcement of the program," said Dan Fiorino, one of its key designers and National Program Manager for Performance Track. "As EPA develops additional benefits (such as reduced reporting or permitting flexibility), the rate of growth is expected to increase further."

In addition to providing meaningful incentives, EPA plans to implement this program on two levels.

The first, Performance Track, aims to set a standard as well as motivate and reward industries' better environmental performers. Performance Track recognizes facilities that consistently meet their legal requirements and implement high standards in their environmental management systems.

The second level, still under development, called Stewardship Track, is designed to reward businesses achieving higher levels of voluntary performance. The Stewardship program will target companies who demonstrate innovation, leadership, and cutting-edge environmental performance, reaching beyond the facilities' fence lines.

"We expect the Stewardship Track will have a company focus, while Performance Track has a facility focus," said Richard Kashmanian, Stewardship team director. "We believe these stewardship decisions are made at the company level, rather than at the facility level."

The EPA is currently collecting information, such as reviewing companies who pass investment firms' environmental screens, to find those considered leaders in the field of environmental protection. A formal announcement regarding the Stewardship Track will be made in the upcoming months.

Several challenges face Performance Track.

"This program involves a different relationship between government and industry, for those facilities and companies that demonstrate a high level of environmental performance. This is at times a difficult transition for a regulatory agency to make," said Fiorino. "In addition, because so much responsibility is delegated to states for permitting, enforcement, and other functions, EPA needs to work closely with the states in implementing the regulatory changes that are designed to recognize the participants." Currently, states like New Jersey, Oregon, Virginia, and Wisconsin have already developed programs similar to Performance Track.

While Performance Track began under the previous administration, Governor Christine Todd Whitman, EPA administrator, has expressed her interest in promoting a more cooperative, performance-based approach toward protecting the environment, citing Performance Track as one of the programs to achieve this goal.

"Our goal is to use the Performance Track program to build a more positive relationship between EPA and the high-performing companies, for whom traditional regulatory strategies may not always be the best," said Fiorino. "We want to create more of a learning network among these facilities, and with government, to share lessons about best practices. We also want to develop better ways of measuring environmental performance, by asking participants to commit to and measure specific improvements in their performance."

The present Performance Track application period begins February 1 running through April 30, 2002.

Fiorino concluded, "We hope to give companies a reason to innovate and achieve results that are better than compliance."


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