What comes in must go out

Rather fancifully it can be said that defining environmental goals depends on measuring what comes in and must go out. By measuring that which we consume and release we can estimate how much is wasted within the company. More waste means more environmental damage, which usually is also connected to economical values as well. The environmental standards usually try to make more from less, which also can be called more environmental efficiency.

What comes in

By defining what comes in we are discussing for instance the following options:

  • Use and purchase of raw materials
  • Water use
  • Warm water use
  • Energy use
  • Fuel use
  • Energy use (fuel use, electricity and warm water put together)
  • Use of chemicals
  • Use of paper
  • Purchase cost of other products as a percentage of annual turnover (both factors are expected to change depending on inflation)

An example of environmental goals are:

  • Warm water use per employee or per square meter of space
  • Electricity use per employee, space volume, produced units or annual turnover
  • Fuel use per each driven km as a percentage of the annual turnover
  • Total paper use, as a percentage of turnover or number of employees
  • Purchase cost as a percentage of total turnover
  • Percentage of environmentally friendly products of total purchased items
  • Certain percentages of vehicles should spend less than 7 dm3 per 100 km
  • Chemical use per square meter during cleaning with reference to the type of detergent used

What goes out

Outflow is usually divided into the pollution of water and the ocean, atmospheric pollution and waste. Here we may be considering the emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, aerosol pollution, sulfuric pollution or other emissions that can be traced back to the industry in question. It is most common that companies assess their waste production for the simple reason, that it is usually easy to assess, even though it not always the most important environmental factor.
It is becoming more common that companies assess carbon dioxide pollution rather than energy use, as renewable energy sources such as methane and hydrogen are becoming more common. Outside Iceland energy sources such as ethanol and biofuels, windmills etc. are becoming more prevalent. It is possible to influence aerosol pollution by using the right vehicles and tires. Waste can be minimized using sorting at the source and also by buying the right products. Buying garbage is creating garbage right from the start.

Examples of environmental goals of waste going out:

  • Emissions of carbon dioxide as the percentage of annual turnover or as per driven km
  • Number of methane cars or cars using renewable fuels
  • Percentage of waste depending on total purchasing
  • Percentage of unsorted waste
  • Percentage of cars using studded tires or tires that have no HA oils

Other goals

Other goals that companies create for themselves are related to activities that can be influenced without repercussions for the production process of the company itself. Those goals encompass for instance, increasing environmental awareness among employees or encouragement for employees to become more environmentally friendly. Sometimes the company creates possibilities for employees to engage in environmentally friendly activities in their spare time. Companies can for instance allow employees to engage in an environmental project one working day each year, if the project reflects the goals and values of the company in question.

Examples of such goals can be:

  • Number of employees which have received environmental education or some kind of introduction to environmental affairs
  • Number of employees which use public transport or who drive together to work (companies can for instance pay for bus fares)
  • Number of employees which sort their waste at home (or which have a recycling bin)
  • Number of employees that engage in environmental projects supported by the company and employer

Here above, the main factors have been discussed which are necessary to keep in mind when companies set their goals both related to the environment and otherwise. The goals can be very different depending on companies and their type of business. Service providers often set goals for themselves which are related to waste disposal, employees and fuel use, while producing companies emphasize better use of raw materials and energy usage. It does not matter which type of company we’re talking about. Everyone can set thenself a goal. The first step, to assess the situation as it now is, is the most important step. Usually many unexpected things are revealed during such assessment. To design environmental goals is a process that can take a couple of years. It is easy to set the first goals, because many environmental aspects can be selected. At the same time the first goals can be difficult to define, as the basic position is often not known and it is a learning process to find and summarize the information so that it reflects the goal in question. This learning process can last from 12 to 36 months.

Grafik: Guðrún Tryggvadóttir and Signý Kolbeinsdóttir ©Nature.is

Dec. 4, 2013
Finnur Sveinsson
Finnur Sveinsson „Skítur inn og skítur út - umhverfisviðmið“, Náttúran.is: Dec. 4, 2013 URL: http://www.natturan.is/d/2007/05/27/sktur-inn-og-sktur-t-umhverfisvimi/ [Skoðað:Aug. 12, 2022]
Efni má nota eða vitna í samkvæmt almennum venjum sé heimilda getið með slóð eða fullri tilvitnun hér að ofan.
skrifað: May 27, 2007
breytt: Dec. 4, 2013