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Unlike any other rating
Green Rating Project stands out because of its rigorous, independent assessment and public disclosure
CSE’s Green Rating Project (GRP) is India’s only comprehensive environmental audit system started in the mid-1990s. Unlike other green awards in the country instituted mostly by industry associations, GRP is an independent programme that rates companies after a rigorous process of data collection and verification. The purpose is to inform the public and policy makers, and to nudge industry to reduce its impact on the environment.
Extensive research is the hallmark of GRP. It does not depend on the information provided by companies alone. It gathers data from a range of stakeholders: pollution control boards, communities, NGOs, plant employees, trade unions, media and onsite survey. Most other green awards depend only on desk assessment and consult selected stakeholders. In the GRP process, most of the parameters are verified by production records on the spot and interviews with production personnel. If a company refuses to participate in the rating the GRP team still goes ahead and collects information about it from other sources. The team then crosschecks the data collected and prepares an environmental profile of each company. In the interest of fairness, profiles thus prepared are sent to companies for feedback. It is only after receiving their feedback that the final profiles are prepared. Rating is done on the basis of the final profile.
To make sure the rating is accurate and unbiased, a technical advisory panel oversees the process from step one. The panel of experts not only helps evaluate criteria for assessment but also verifies and fine-tunes all the aspects of rating. It also revisits some plants randomly to crosscheck the results. GRP is free from corporate funding, and therefore, free from conflict of interest. Final ratings, verified and approved by the advisory panel, are released to the public.
GRP encourages all companies to participate. Unlike many other ratings, it identifies not only performers but also laggards in a sector, so that public pressure builds on them to clean up their act.
How iron and steel industry was rated
This is the fifth major industrial sector to be rated by GRP, and it took the team two years to prepare the report. For the rating, GRP selected all the 21 plants that had an annual production capacity of at least half a million tonnes. These plants are producing 68 per cent of the total steel in India. GRP used the life cycle analysis method to assess companies’ performance. Environmental impact of the steel sector happens mostly during raw material sourcing (mining) and production. Since there was no uniformity in the way companies were sourcing raw material—some had captive mines, some bought them from domestic market and some imported them—GRP did not assess the raw material phase. Only production phase from raw material handling till crude steel making was considered to assess companies’ performance.
Performance of individual companies and the sector was analysed with reference to global best practices. GRP rated the sector on about 150 parameters which were assigned weightages, depending on their potential environmental impacts (see ‘Rating criteria and weightage’). The maximum weightage was assigned to the iron-making stage—and within that to coke-making and blast furnace process—which is highly polluting and resource-intensive.
Air pollution control, solid waste management and dust emission control from raw material storage and handling areas were given high weightage.
The steel industry’s performance in water, especially water budgeting, conservation measures and reporting, are found poor. Although the per unit water requirement of the industry is low, its overall requirement is high because its production runs into millions of tonnes. In several parts of the country steel plants are causing severe water stress. As a result, water use was given high weightage.
Management systems also received attention in the rating since reporting, transparency and occupational safety performance of Indian steel plants is deplorable. Significant weightage has been assigned to local community perception because it is an alternate tool of assessment. The primary surveyor’s perception and participation of companies have also been given due weightage.
Rating was done on a scale of 10 where the highest score represents theoretical best practices. Even the current best technology did not fetch full marks, as there is scope for improvement. The final scores fetched them Green Leaves Awards (see ‘Green Leaves ...’).