Voluntary environmental management initiatives - VEMI are not the same as those environmental management systems - EMS that companies or facilities establish with the objective of obtaining a certification like ISO 14000. Hence the criteria we use to evaluate the former should necessarily be somewhat different from those we use for the latter…
This defines the basic approach the company takes in implementing the system. If the focus is on compliance, then the benefits that the company will expect are reduction in their liabilities. (A Strategic Approach to ISO 14001)
This is an EMS and the company is likely to consider it a cost. On the other hand, if the company's objective is to improve their products, design and processes, with the attendant benefits of pollution reduction, but more importantly customer satisfaction, then it could be a VEMI and the company would consider this an investment. The company, in this case, will not be worried about the certification per se, but about the satisfaction of the stakeholders. This does not, of course, mean that the certification is not necessary or is useless, but the company in question is pursuing real results in terms of pollution reduction and improvement in the processes and products, leading to customer and stakeholder satisfaction. (A Strategic Approach to ISO 14001)
To answer the question - 'Why are VEMI's important' - The first thing that we need to understand is that it is more realistic than an ISO 14000-oriented EMS. To elaborate, there can be no uniformity in the framework to be used to implement EMS systems - this will differ from company to company, industry to industry. For instance, a retailer may focus on how environment friendly the suppliers are; while a chemical company may focus on how to develop products that cause less harm to the environment and how to recycle the waste products. Even the expectations in the ISO context - that the company has a commitment to ensure compliance, that it seeks to improve its systems on a continuous basis and that it aims to control pollution - cannot be evaluated in the same way for different facilities. (A Strategic Approach to ISO 14001)
To take the example of the first expectation - commitment to compliance - different nations have varying levels, strictness and coverage in their environmental regulations. Since ISO 14000 stipulates compliance with regard to the location of the company seeking certification, it may be that a company located in a country where there are less number of laws, will be able to show compliance sooner and with much greater ease. (A Strategic Approach to ISO 14001) The chance of companies getting the certification by adhering to certain minimum regulation requirements is also high. Hence, for real environment management in letter and spirit, it may be necessary to motivate companies to take up VEMI, where they are genuinely interested in environmental improvement. VEMI will therefore be the instrument through which real environment management systems with responsible environment friendly actions take place.
Voluntary initiatives or programmes are of three types, according to Lyon and Maxwell. They can be unilateral commitments in which case business organisations voluntarily set up environmental initiatives or programmes. The organisation and not the government take the initiatives in this kind of programme. They can also be public voluntary programmes, where more than one firms agree to adapt the standards established by a public body, like an environmental agency. They can also be negotiated agreements where the government industry ...
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