Corporate Sustainability Is Environmental Responsibility

Corporate Sustainability Is Environmental Responsibility

This piece was originally published as the chairman’s column in the April 2017 issue of electroindustry.

Michail Pessina, Chairman, NEMA Board of Governors

We often think of sustainability from a purely environmental perspective—leave no trace, use fewer natural resources, and minimize our footprint on the planet.

Corporate sustainability is about environmental responsibility; it is also about the overall wellbeing of the corporation and the business. As manufacturers, we have an obligation to contribute to society with safe goods and services that improve people’s lives. We must balance the scientific evidence that guides us to be conscious of our environmental impact with our commitment to meeting evolving customer expectations. This is where NEMA can, and will, have the greatest impact.

Each member of NEMA can get involved to help support and influence manufacturing standards and regulations, simultaneously protecting dwindling resources and preserving consumer choice. Part of the process is to carefully consider the entire value chain and ask this provocative question: if NEMA Member companies do a better job of minding their own sustainability stores, can that signal regulatory agencies to consider less stringent, more open-minded policies?

Rules and regulations often create order out of chaos. NEMA has the opportunity to be proactive and involved with regulatory agencies before there is a perceived problem, potentially easing the tendency to create ever-more-restrictive standards that ultimately limit consumer choice and drive up costs with little offsetting societal benefit.

Several specific examples come to mind:

The High-Performance Building Council is open to any NEMA Member. By taking an active role in this council, companies can influence new product standards that may incur a higher initial cost but will ultimately create more sustainable buildings with higher returns on investment. LEED, the Well Building Standard, and other international guidelines for sustainable construction can benefit from NEMA’s informed voices in the field of energy-saving electrical products.

NEMA has an opportunity to weigh in on the growing attention to chemical management, an issue especially critical to medical imaging product manufacturers. Chemical management addresses an essential balance of interests, i.e., which chemicals and how much of them can be safely used while still ensuring that we continue to provide products that improve the quality of life, or even save lives.

Energy storage and renewable energy are increasingly important in manufacturing, but guidelines for measuring and reporting energy storage are relatively new. NEMA is using a new protocol, developed under the leadership of the U.S. Department of Energy, as a starting point for international and U.S. standards for energy storage system performance. By staying active with this initiative, we can continue to inform and influence the broader use of renewable energy.

NEMA plays a key role in advising its membership on environmental requirements and health product declarations that will impact on future regulation. Get involved, become active in NEMA committees and councils, and stay engaged. Remember, we get out of our association what we put into it.

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