Measuring Pollution-Prevention Performance

Thomas W. Zosel

The demand for effective measures of pollution-prevention performance has increased with industry's concern about environmental issues. Many corporations spend significant portions of their capital and operating budgets to address environmental issues, and corporate managers need ways to measure the results of these efforts. It is the job of the environmental staff within a corporation to determine what measurements need to be made and reported to top management.

Many others are also interested in the environmental performance of a company or facility. For example, the communities in which plants are located may be extremely concerned about what is released into the environment. Customers, too, have an interest and potentially a legal right to know what materials are in products or are used during their manufacture. Of particular legal interest today is whether chlorofluorocarbons are used in a product's manufacture. Finally, environmental agencies have a distinct interest in tracking environmental performance. However, because agencies' interests are manifested in legal and regulatory requirements, companies have little choice in the type of measurements they make. Permits, plant operations, and—because the criminal sanctions in many laws are enforced—employees' personal freedom may depend on making and reporting the required measurements. Given the number of stakeholders, no single environmental metric or measurement system is likely to meet everyone's needs.

Toxic Release Inventory

Perhaps the data that have received the most publicity in the past few years are the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986 (SARA) Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) reports. These reports list quantities of selected toxic

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