The nitty-gritties

Adopting a comprehensive rating approach

Published: Saturday 31 July 1999

The nitty-gritties

-- For assessing actual environmental performance, cse decided to use the broader Life Cycle Analysis ( lca ) approach instead of the more restricted Environmental Impact Assessment ( eia ) approach used by the government to clear projects. The eia approach only assesses environmental impacts at the production site whereas the lca approach assesses the full environmental impact of a product, which is also called the 'cradle-to-grave' analysis. It includes the environmental impact of the raw materials obtained for making a product (the impact on forests, for instance, for obtaining wood to make paper), the environmental impact at the production stage (chemicals, for instance, that is used in the pulp-bleaching stage) and then the environmental impacts at the time the product is being used and is being disposed off (whether the company recycles wastepaper). A combination of all these factors gives the rating a more holistic image, in tune with the ground reality. Thus, the rating of the actual environmental performance is comprehensive (See diagram: Cradle-to-grave ).

The approach is simple. At the primary data collection stage, a policy and plant-level questionnaire specific to the pulp and paper industry is prepared to collect information from the company. Simultaneously, secondary data is collected by green inspectors from state pollution control boards about the nature of the plant, production process and waste treatment facilities used and adopted by the companies, perceptions of local communities and non-governmental organisations. Additional information is collected from all possible published sources about the company.

All this data is compiled and analysed by the grp team and presented to the technical panel for consideration and a profile of the company's environmental performance is prepared. This profile is then sent to the companies for their feedback. They can contest any information that is included in the profile but they have to provide cse with adequate information to support their claim. Profiles were also prepared for companies which did not give the grp team any information based on secondary information and plant visits. The 'default option' -- that is, a company which does not voluntarily disclose information is given zero rating -- is applied to these companies.

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