Environmental Opportunities, Inc.

Ask the Experts

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Courtesy of Environmental Opportunities, Inc.

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A monthly column on strategic EH&S management, sustainability and Responsible Care Management Systems by experts who have spent time in both the trenches and the boardrooms.

This month's topics:

Will Responsible Care's RC14001 management system requirements change with the recent approval of changes to ISO14001:2004?

Steve: In the way of background, the International Standards Organization (ISO) approved a revision of the ISO 14001 Environmental Management Systems standard in November 2004. The transition period from ISO 14001:1996 to ISO 14001:2004 will take place over 18 months. The transition is to occur according to the following schedule:

  • November 2004 - May 2005: Companies may opt for certification to ISO 14001:1996 or ISO 14001:2004. The same is true for surveillance audits.
  • May 2005 - May 2006: Companies that are being certified to ISO 14001 for the first time will be required to use the ISO 14001:2004 version. During this period, companies that have ISO 14001:1996 certifications will be required to "upgrade" to the new version via their scheduled surveillance audits.
  • After May 2006: All certification audits and surveillance will be consistent with ISO 14001:2004.

A few weeks ago I asked Dan Roczniak at the American Chemistry Council (ACC) about how the new revision to ISO 14001 will affect RC14001. He said, "ACC's Technical Oversight Board (TOB), which oversees the Responsible Care certification process, is aware of the changes to ISO 14001. Since RC14001 is linked to ISO 14001, it must transition in the same manner as the EMS standard. The TOB plans to incorporate the new changes in ISO 14001 and allow members ample opportunity to meet the ISO transition requirements. The TOB does not anticipate any significant changes to the Responsible Care elements of RC14001. As the TOB moves forward on this project, it will keep the membership informed of its work and progress."

No word yet on a specific timetable.

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I'm thinking of becoming an 'independent' practitioner; what suggestions can you provide to increase my chances of success (Part 3 of 3)?

Steve: Continuing with my list from the January and February columns, here are my last five 'lessons learned':

  • Manage your cash flow. It's a business that, unless you're very lucky, can be extremely episodic and typically has a 60-120 day lag time between securing the project and getting paid. The U.S. Small Business Administration (and just about every consulting/entrepreneurial book I've ever read) gives this as being the number one reason most small businesses fail - you'll run out of operating cash and, at best, have to forego one or more paychecks. See also the 'lesson learned' on your mix of project types, presented in the January column.
  • Conduct strategic planning. General Eisenhower, I'm told, had a famous quote - "Strategic plans aren't nearly as important as strategic planning." Whether it's combat on the field or in the marketplace, the act of strategic planning forces you to think seriously about your objectives and how you function in your marketplace. As a minimum, learn and practice SWOT (if you don't know what SWOT is, that's a good first lesson to learn).
  • Under promise and over deliver. Little else produces as much client delight and repeat business as giving more or giving it faster - but only so long as a) they're not expecting it and b) they're not paying for it.
  • Provide outrageous value. Not just value - outrageous value. That may be by providing low price, rapid service, brilliant analysis or dead-center, jaw-dropping results; it depends on what the client appreciates and values.
  • Have a bit of fun! Make sure you do things that give you joy. If you can't have fun and enjoy your profession and situation, do something else. Life is too short to be wringing your hands and grinding your teeth 8, 10 or more hours a day. As my brother, who recently experienced a heart attack (significant, but not fatal) commented, "It's good to breathe and see THIS side of the grass!"

Of course, there many other lessons, but master these fifteen and you'll give yourself the best possible chance at success.

All of these lessons can be applied even if you are in a corporate or business staff position. Just change the terminology a bit and your mindset a lot. At worst, it will prepare you for going the independent practice route, whether voluntarily or not.

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Postscripts: I Spy With My Little Eye.. Opportunity. A favorite game parents play with their children while driving on long trips is 'I spy with my little eye..', followed by a description of what the person just saw. The object of the game is for the other player or players to find what it is that the person just saw before traveling out of sight of it.

Memories of this game came back to me on February 16th, the day the Kyoto global climate change treaty to control greenhouse gas emissions entered into force, without U.S. participation. I thought to myself, 'I spy with my little eye… opportunity', hoping that others might look around and spot the opportunity before we whizzed past Kyoto faster than we could see what just happened.

Not that I'm totally convinced that Kyoto is the answer. While I have grown warmer to the idea that we should, and might actually be able to, do something effective about global warming, Kyoto still might not be the way to go. First, it leaves too many major greenhouse gas emission sources and countries out of the equation. Second, it was negotiated, enacted and due to be implemented by entities that are trying to control OTHERS' emissions. Third, competitive economic realities are starting to set in - with Japan and Germany teetering on the brink of recession, how much long-term priority can be given in light of the more immediate short-term reality?

Nevertheless, Kyoto is the only international game in town and such a global issue requires an international approach. Let's do what we can. As we drive to the future, however, and see the opportunity of Kyoto passing behind us, it's now time to start the next round of the game.

'I spy with my little eye… an international trade agreement that provides effective incentives for every country, every company, every airline passenger and energy user to work to a common goal of controlling THEIR OWN emissions, for mutual benefit, via a combination of short-term and longer term strategies'.

Now, who can find what I just described?

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Steve Rice (973-966-5505) is president of Environmental Opportunities, Inc., a strategic EH&S management and project support services company in Florham Park, New Jersey. He has 30 years of executive EH&S leadership experience, including 25 years with both Exxon and BASF, and is BEAC-certified Responsible Care Management Systems (RCMS) auditor.

Copyright 2005, Environmental Opportunities, Inc.

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