Par Isabelle Gasquet
Why should companies work with pollution prevention instead of more traditional approaches? What are important measures you need to take inside a company to work in a preventive way?
Companies should opt for pollution prevention instead of pollution reduction mainly because it constitutes a business opportunity and turns out to be more profitable. If they anticipate on the potential pollution that is likely to be generated and invest to improve product design and production processes, then they will reduce both costs and risks and improve their environmental performance. Indeed, if they take the traditional approach, that is to say trying to control or reduce the pollution coming out their plants for example, they will spend a lot of time and financial resources trying to figure out what is the most efficient and most economical way of reducing this pollution and possibly try different solutions before coming up with the best one. But this solution could only solve the problem temporarily and further costly investments to improve it would be soon needed.
If companies choose pollution prevention, they opt for a different state of mind: anticipating instead of reacting. Pollution prevention can be done through a cleaner production strategy. It is true that in order to implement such a strategy, companies will have to spend both time and money but investments will mainly happen in the launch phase and the outcomes will be more tangible and sustainable than with the traditional approach. Once the cleaner production strategy is in place, the company only needs to keep it working and improving.
Cleaner production favours constant innovation and therefore offers a company the opportunity to be one step ahead of its competitors instead of striving to keep up with them or to comply with the latest regulations. It is a proactive way of dealing with the pollution.
In order to prevent pollution, the best thing is to work directly on products or services, therefore to aim for better design and cleaner production processes. The company needs to draft some kind of road map in order to implement a cleaner production strategy. The first step is to put up a project team that will define some targets; then the assessment phase will include gathering all the data to identify cleaner production opportunities and classify potential options. The implementation and evaluation phases will finally follow.
The cleaner production strategy has to be thought on the long-term and needs to be a continuous process so that it is not just a pilot-measure. For a greater efficiency, it has to go hand in hand with good management systems which overview and monitor the strategy along all of its phases, who make sure new procedures are well understood and adopted by everybody and who will control that they keep going.
Retailers play a big role when it comes to promoting green products: how a retailer could support an eco-labelling system and promote products with eco-labels?
One of the aims of eco-labels is to make consumers getting information about environmentally preferable products in order to make them change their consumption patterns and behaviour.
Some retailers could support the eco-labelling system by opening fully eco-labelled shops. Other retailers, who have more traditional shops, can promote products with eco-labels in the way they display them. If they put them at the bottom of a shelf, it is quite unlikely that those products are going to be noticed. On the contrary, if they put them forward, then it will attract the consumers’ attention. This can be done through putting up big signs above the aisle where the products are to be found or with promotional and informative signs on the shelves. Some retailers choose to place all the organic products for example in the same aisle so that consumers do not need to look all over the shop for them; they’re all in the same area. Some others will place them according to the type of product so that consumers can compare prices more easily. Whatever the strategy that is preferred, the aim is to place the products where people can find them. Retailers can also promote eco-labelled products through communication and visual imagery. For example, in the case of locally produced goods, displaying photos of friendly-looking farmers with a text next to them telling about their stories and how much they care for the land and their animals could be an effective promotional strategy.
In Sweden, retailers have had a big influence with eco-labelling. For example, some of them decided to offer non-organic products and organic products at the same price in order to promote the latter. This strategy was used for products of specific interest such as coffee. This is an interesting strategy since price is a powerful incentive. Yet, it may not work everywhere. Indeed, according to studies, some people tend to be suspicious if organic products are the same price as non-organic ones. In people’s mind, organic products are more expensive because of a perceived better quality.
Another way of supporting and promoting the eco-labelling system is to display information about the environmental impact of products such as carbon labels on retailer’s brand products. Such a label will give information about the carbon footprint of the product. In France, some retailers such as Casino and Monoprix are also using the “environmental index” which compares the environmental impact of 100g of a product with the environmental impact of the total average daily food consumption of a person. It takes into account greenhouse gas emissions, water consumption and water pollution.