Concrete inFocus - Winter 2015 - (Page 13)

enviroscene Is It the Same Thing as Environmental Compliance? Douglas Ruhlin W e talk to an awful lot of concrete producers about the idea of sustainability and sustainable practices in their companies and in their plants. Invariably, we get asked, "What else do we need to do, we have all our permits." (Often even this is debatable, just a word of caution.) Since sustainability is somewhat of a vague concept to many concrete producers that are a lot more familiar with years of mandated environmental regulations and compliance activities, it's reasonable that this confusion between sustainability and environmental compliance occurs. But if you want to run a truly sustainable operation, and participate in the sustainability movement and the benefits provided by a sustainable operation, it's important that concrete producers understand the difference between sustainability and environmental compliance. Sustainability can be defined a lot of different ways (adding somewhat to the confusion), but it's generally considered to be operating a business or plant in a manner that allows future generations the opportunity to enjoy the same (or better) standard of living. Kind of like a savings plan, saving today for future years. Except in the case of sustainability we're saving things like the environment, the planet, limited natural resources and quality of life for all. And, the idea is also to do it in a way that adds to the bottom line rather than detract from it. That's pretty broad and pretty encompassing, but also unfortunately a bit vague for most concrete producers to grasp. Environmental regulatory compliance on the other hand is pretty limited. Although it might seem at times like there are a large number of environmental rules and regulations with which to comply, there's really only a handful of major environmental regulations that are required by concrete producers in the United States (NPDES permits, air permits, SPCC plans, hazardous materials reporting, TRI reporting, etc.) and often fewer internationally depending on the country. These are the regulatory programs that the government considers necessary in order to operate a concrete plant (or any other type of facility) in a manner that doesn't impact the environment. Notice that there's nothing in these regulations about things like conservation of resources or protection of quality of life for people, which are some of the primary tenets of sustainability (and little to nothing about profitability, as this really isn't taken into account with environmental regulations). So it might seem like there is little in common between sustainability and environmental compliance, right? Well, they actually are connected in a meaningful way. We often say that environmental compliance is one of the pillars of the foundation of sustainability. Without it, you really can't operate in a sustainable manner, since if you're not in full compliance, you might have an impact on the environment. So to be truly sustainable, you need to be in full compliance. But full environmental compliance is only a part of the sustainability program of your company or concrete plant, not the whole thing. The obvious answer is no: sustainability is not the same thing as environmental compliance. If you're in compliance, that doesn't mean you run a sustainable concrete plant or company, but conversely you can't be sustainable without being in compliance. All concrete sustainability certifications (NRMCA Sustainable Plant Certification, the new Concrete Sustainable Council Responsible Sourcing Certification) require a demonstration to some degree of full environmental compliance. These certifications recognize that full compliance is a basic principle of sustainability, although there's much more to it. So there's no getting around it. If you want to operate your concrete company or plant in a truly sustainable manner, and you're not sure where to start, environmental regulatory compliance is a good place to begin. While it won't ensure that your company or plant is completely operating in a sustainable manner, you'll have made a good first step. ■ Douglas Ruhlin is an environmental/sustainability consultant at Resource Management Associates. For more information, contact him at 609-693-8301 or His company's Web site is concrete INFOCUS ı 13

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Concrete inFocus - Winter 2015

From the President’s Desk
Corporate Suite Column
Enviroscene Column
Smokey Point Concrete
The Right Mix: A Guide to Pervious Concrete Mix Design
Union Threats: The Rules of the Game Have Changed!
Index of Advertisers
2015 Mixer Driver Recruitment and Retention Survey
2015 National Ready Mixed Concrete Association Driver Recruitment and Retention Survey

Concrete inFocus - Winter 2015