A non-priority?

Environment managers do not count

Published: Sunday 15 June 2003

A non-priority?

Based on its environmental performance, Indian industry can be classified into two groups. The first consists of companies where management limits itself to worrying about how to stick to (or use to the full) standards and norms. The second consists of companies that have gone beyond 'regulatory requirements'; these have operational systems driven by the environment's corporate vanguard: environment managers.

An environment manager monitors pollution control systems, environmental audit of their companies, interacts with regulatory bodies, procures certification and tries to integrate eco-friendly activities with the day-to-day operations of their companies. It is their work that brands a company as 'environment-friendly'. But most of them remain relegated to the corporate backrooms all their lives, unappreciated even by their own managements.

It is on these environment managers that the future of industry's relationship with environment depends. On them depends industry's very survival, for an environmentally unsustainable industry is a recipe for disaster. To emphasise on this vital truth and to recognise these managers' contributions, CSE's Green Rating Project has instituted an award for the 'best environment manager' in Indian industry. The survey for this first-of-its-kind initiative in the country was completed in April 2003. Support from industry was immediate: 74 nominations were received from companies such as Ford, Xerox Modicorp, Philips, Ambuja Cement, ITC, HCL, Tisco, Glaxo, BHEL and Ranbaxy.

What CSE found
The diverse profiles of the nominees pointed to the variety that existed in the profession. Vice presidents and general managers, directors and senior managers vied for the top spot. Working experiences ranged from more than 30 years to less than two years; responsibilities, from providing overall guidance and vision to the environmental aspect of the business to mere liaison with state pollution control boards. The survey also generated information on critical trends in the state of environment management in Indian industry, and on the kinds of environment protection initiatives taken.

To begin with, all the 74 nominees came from large-scale companies (the second group in Indian industry). Nominations from small and medium enterprises were conspicuous by their absence.

Majority of the nominees represented well-known companies that had a presence in global markets. Fourteen nominees were from MNCs. This indicates that liberalisation of the Indian economy, its increasing interaction with global markets, and corporate image are contributing to pushing companies towards better environmental management.

Of the 74 nominees, only 19 represented a department that catered exclusively to environment. The rest came from departments which environment shared with other specialities like quality control, health and safety, operations, production or R&D. Though the association of environment with health and safety is now being recognised as valid, the others are symptomatic of the lip service that companies usually pay to environment management.

CSE also found that a majority of the nominees did not have enough decision-making powers. More than 60 per cent of them represented middle management (managers, deputy general managers, etc); only nine managers belonged to the higher management level (vice presidents, directors, etc).


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