Since the first Earth day in the early 1970s the impact of businesses' environmental performance has been growing; by the 1990s, it had become a major driving force in determining long-term success. Positive environmental performance in industry requires leadership from the top and commitment throughout the company as well as allocation of significant human and financial resources. Because of limited resources, companies must be able to identify and select issues on which to act where their investments will yield the most cost-effective benefit. Such action can turn improving environmental performance from a perceived liability into a real competitive advantage.

Identification and prioritization of environmental issues requires effective measurement of environmental performance. Periodic compliance auditing should not be confused with environmental measurements. Generally, auditing is conducted by independent experts every several years, whereas environmental measurement data are self-reported by each facility at least annually. Implementation of an environmental measurements program is a long-term commitment. In concert with their goal to help identify and prioritize issues for action, such programs are intended to foster continuous improvement, which requires measurements to evaluate the results.

Development and use of environmental measurement systems is still in its infancy, and the systems continue to evolve rapidly. Because environmental issues are complex and often interrelated, effective environmental measurement systems can become quite complex, and initial implementation can appear to be an overwhelming task. However, initial implementation of a rather straightforward system, with a recognition that continuous upgrading and improvements will be necessary, is a manageable approach that will begin the process of continuous improvement of environmental performance.



Environmental performance can be defined as an organization's achievements in managing the relation between the full range of its activities and their environmental risks and effects (ISO/TC 207 Environmental Management Subcommittee #4, 1994).


Environmental performance evaluation can be defined as a process to measure, analyze, assess, and describe an organization's environmental performance against agreed criteria for appropriate management purposes (ISO/TC 207 Environmental Management Subcommittee #4, 1994).


Ciba-TPD defines environmentally friendly packaging as containers (e.g. , returnable drums or totes and bulk shipments ) that are reused, not disposed of. Every pound of product delivered to customers is tracked on a monthly basis according to this definition.


Ciba-Geigy. 1993. Corporate Environmental Report 1992. Basle, Switzerland: Ciba-Geigy.

FitzGerald, C. 1993. Selecting measures for corporate environmental quality:Examples from TQEM companies. Pp. 15–23 in Measuring Environmental Performance. New York: Executive Enterprises Publications Co.

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