The Financial Express

Cleaner production in environmental compliance

| Updated: November 15, 2019 21:54:27

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Cleaner production in  environmental compliance

In the recent years, environmental worries have revolved us in maintaining environmental compliance issues in many organizations as required by the global environmental regulatory authorities. Environmental Compliance designates following to environmental laws, regulations, standards, or any other requirements as per the concern governing system requires in an organization to operate. Moreover, at the global commitment towards achieving sustainability, all present and future industrial and corporate sectors must be compliant with socially and environmentally. Since in many sectors over the years, social compliance has been recognized earlier than the environmental compliance; but considering the current demand, we are now to be guaranteed in maintaining environmental compliance in any of organizational services. On the other hand, social compliance is more visible than environmental compliance, therefore the respective buyers, customers and associations need to give more emphasize on the greater devotion to environmental compliance in Bangladesh in the next decades.

However, environmental compliance is still progressively a developing concept in many areas, especially in the corporate sectors rather than textiles and apparel sectors as remarked for the high rates of air and water pollution. In the developing countries like Bangladesh, the concern of environmental compliance is viewed with a care from a large part of our industry. Moreover, most people of the country are still unaware of the environmental issues as what and how much about environmental issues should be careful about within an organization. This is happening, because many industries are not capable to estimate the cost of environmental pollution as they have done, or to actual return on investment if they want to be compliant in environmental management system in their sectors. Therefore, it seems to an organization that the cost of environmental compliance is a kind of 'dead investment' to them, while the presence of social compliance is more important for them since they feel more enforcement pressure to be compliant from their employees or labors. Yet it is explicitly required for any organizations to achieve the sustainability by ensuring all about their service related significant impacts on the environment. In the aspects to safeguard of the country, Bangladesh should play a vital role ina competitive edge of the ready-made garment industry, via a greater compliance with both socially and environmentally.

However, the biggest change of the mindsets in some industries has been influenced by the buyers, while all the stakeholders are possibly being strong enough to approach with the environmental issue through a combined media, or other public and private platforms.

For the compliance issue in environmental management of a factory, many infrastructural developments are usually taken from the pollution perspectives, e.g. effluent treatment plant (ETP), dust controller, waste water treatment plant etc. But unfortunately most of our industries are discharging factory waste water or emitting gaseous substances without a proper treatment channel of their pollutants. A rough estimated figure in and around Dhaka city exposes that the discharge of 98,000 cubic meters of waste water into nearby water bodies and land is caused alone by the 1,700 washing-dyeing finishing units. This means that a large percent of factories does not possess ETPs or not operate them properly.

The reason for such apathy of some factories is actually a misinterpretation of cost-benefit aspects of the environmental compliance. From a business perspective it is assumed as a sunk cost where no return on investment in the environmental compliance. But from the entrepreneur's standpoint, we want to see the long term monetary benefits from the change of environmental management setup in industries. In terms of social wellbeing, the compliance cost will be recovered through the continuous return from keeping a good healthy society.

Recently, the environmental compliance has been approached flexibly through the implementation of innovative concepts of Cleaner Production across the significant markets. The outcome of the Cleaner Production is derived from the excellent adoption methods and implementation across the industry while it leads to cost savings of compliance, but at the same time also build a better working environment and intensify profitability.

So, how can we adopt cleaner production concept in our environmental management compliance, this is an obvious question for us? Cleaner Production is an integrated method which imposes on creating the most effective use of inputs such as water, energy, gas and other raw materials thus reducing pollution and waste at the source. Cleaner production has a huge scope of implementing the manufacturing sectors in a developing country like Bangladesh, because we still see an enormous inefficiency in the practices of raw materials selection and management in the factories. Main raw materials like gas, water and others are not properly used as the inputs due to inappropriate pricing of products as they could be. In such every improper costing of raw materials, cleaner production lies on the opportunity.

According to the UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme), cleaner production stated as"The continuous application of an integrated preventive environmental strategy applied to processes, products, and services to increase overall efficiency and reduce risks to humans and the environment." Here we can consider some principles in mind when applying the concept in our compliance management, e.g. precaution principle, preventive principle and integration principle. On the basis of these principles, Cleaner Production practices can be planned and designed in some following major heads like-

Good housekeeping: We should take suitable managerial and operational actions to prevent leaks, spills, to enforce existing, operational instructions etc.

Input substitution: We should plan step by step and substitute input materials by less toxic, or by renewable materials, or by adjunct materials which are most modern, innovative and longer lifetime in services.

Better process control: We always think about modification of raw materials, equipment instructions, operational procedures and process record keeping with the aim of efficient manufacturing at lower emission and waste generation rates.

Technology change: In the cleaner production, we should always be innovative in replacement of the technology, processing sequence and synthesis pathway, so that we are able to minimise production waste and emission generation.

On-site recovery/reuse: We should plan for reuse of the wasted materials in many innovative ways, possibly within the company in the close loop system.

Production of a useful by-product: We can consider a process of transforming waste into

a valuable by-product, and/or to be sold as the input for other companies in different business sectors.

Product modification: Product development and product innovation can be another process of the cleaner production to minimise the environmental impacts entire the product life cycle (from raw materials selection to end use of the product).

However, if a factory wants to be environmentally compliant, they have to go through above mentioned strategic process. It has already been experimented in many developed countries that Cleaner Production minimize the costing factors and increase profitability over increasing energy efficiency and less waste production. We commonly hold a wrong perception of the factories, which means that their cost of being environmental compliance is a burdensome in addition to their production cost. But they are actually perceived in this knowledge without thinking themselves as environmental management is the ultimate longitudinal return on investment over many factors like to reduce operating cost, expand productivity and facilitate a better environment for access of future generations.

A number of factories in Bangladesh are presently piloting Cleaner Production programmes and few of them have become top-ranking green factories in the world. Here we have to think that these factories have got their world-wide reputation only for maintaining their environmental compliance, not for their product quality itself. We should remember, quality product is an outcome of implementing a holistic approach in a factory, which means through managing all over environmental and social compliance during the production lifecycle. Even the initial approach with cleaner production is encouraging for some specific factories to be environmentally-compliant, but not all of these factories are rightly perceived with the cleaner production concept. We can here give some examples about some environmental management activities, which are not recognized as cleaner production activities in principle so far, e.g. off-site recycling, transferring hazardous wastes, waste treatment, concentrating hazardous or toxic constituents to reduce volume, and diluting constituents to reduce the hazard or toxicity.

Polin Kumar Saha is an environmental professional in the private sector [email protected]; [email protected]

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