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Superior Environmental Performance

Green Tier is dedicated to helping businesses, communities, and organizations move beyond minimum environmental requirements to reduce environmental impacts and maximize their resources. Green Tier participants improve their environmental performance to achieve superior environmental performance.

Superior environmental performance is about going beyond the requirements of environmental regulations and generating measurable improvement in the quality of air, land, water, natural resources, human health or in the protection of the environment.

Green Tier defines nine outcomes of superior environmental performance. Many of these items are related to life-cycle decision making and creating tangible environmental benefits. Goals and projects that qualify as superior environmental performance may fit into several of the categories listed below.

1. Limiting the discharges or emissions of pollutants from, or in some other way minimizing the negative effects on air, water, land, natural resources, or human health of, a facility that is owned or operated by an entity or an activity that is performed by the entity to an extent that is greater than is required by applicable environmental requirements.

The first example focuses on pollution prevention strategies that minimize negative environmental effects of your operations and processes. There are many strategies, like adjusting processes or upgrading equipment, to prevent pollution that lowers risk and saves money, while protecting the environment at the same time.

2. Minimizing the negative effects on air, water, land, natural resources, or human health of the raw materials used by an entity or of the products or services produced or provided by the entity to an extent that is greater than is required by applicable environmental requirements.

The second example covers pollution prevention from a different angle, looking both upstream and downstream in your supply chain. You may identify ways to reduce environmental impacts of raw materials used to create a product or offer a service. This may mean setting requirements for your supply chain so that you can offer a more environmentally friendly product or service. With a life-cycle perspective, you may evaluate the environmental impacts, life expectancy, or potential for reuse or recycling.

3. Voluntarily engaging in restoring or preserving natural resources.

Some examples of restoring and preserving natural resources, could include encouraging employees to volunteer on company time, restoring company-owned land, or even donating to a credible organization that is dedicated to environmental protection or restoration.

To see what resources are near you, check out this map for ideas to engage in voluntarily restoring or preserving natural resources.

4. Helping other entities to comply with environmental requirements or to accomplish the results described in subd. 1. or 2.

This example is about being a good neighbor and environmental steward by helping others with their compliance obligations, or by sharing best practices and techniques to prevent pollution as outlined in 1 or 2 above.

5. Organizing uncoordinated entities that produce environmental harm into a program that reduces that harm.

Helping others to reduce their impacts can be achieved through a collaborative effort, like helping your supply chain reduce their footprint, forming an industry association, or creating a Green Tier Charter. The goal is to collaborate with others to reduce environmental impacts common to the group.

6. Reducing waste or the use or production of hazardous substances in the design, production, delivery, use, or reuse of goods or services.

The next example again addresses the concept of life-cycle thinking in the design, production, delivery, use, or reuse of goods or services. This could involve reducing waste or the use of hazardous substances throughout the life cycle of goods and services. You might look at the inputs, current processes, outputs or cleaning and maintenance of equipment to achieve this example.

7. Conserving energy or nonrenewable natural resources.

Example seven offers the opportunity to reduce dependency on non-renewable natural resources. This could mean conserving energy through efficiency projects that reduce your use of fossil fuels. Generating renewable energy on-site or investing in off-site clean energy projects are effective strategies to achieve superior environmental performance.

Other strategies to limit the use of nonrenewable resources include reducing the use of plastics, rare earth metals or other non-renewable natural resources. Life-cycle analyses can be useful to evaluate the merits of replacing nonrenewable raw materials.

8. Reducing the use of renewable natural resources through increased efficiency.

The eighth example refers to conserving renewable natural resources like air, land, water, and biomass. This might mean reducing water use in cooling systems, enhancing air pollution controls, reducing the use of wood products, using more recycled content in your products, or reducing runoff to prevent soil loss and water contamination.

This example can be achieved in ways that are similar to example 7. You might consider increasing the efficiency of energy sourced from renewable energy sources like solar panels, wind turbines, or geothermal wells. With increased energy efficiency, the energy sourced from renewables can be distributed more efficiently, thereby reducing the energy intensity of renewable energy production.

9. Adopting methods that reduce the depletion of, or long−term damage to, renewable natural resources.

Our final example ties in with operational efficiencies, conservation, and pollution prevention. This example encourages you to examine current production methods and their respective environmental impacts. You could implement alternative methods that will have a lesser impact on renewable natural resources.

For example, you might consider purchasing wood products from a sustainable source. Select harvest improves tree health, improves nutrient management, reduces runoff and soil loss, safeguards water quality, and provides wildlife habitat.

Another example of this is in the printing process; LED curing technology can be used to eliminate the use of mercury vapor in a process, resulting in improved air quality and employee health.

Components of "superior environmental performance" are based on the principles of the Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies (CERES), a nonprofit organization that leads a national coalition of investors, environmental organizations and other groups working with companies to promote continual progress toward pollution reduction, energy conservation and other environmental sustainability goals.

Some participants may choose to connect their environmental efforts to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals developed by the United Nations. We have created a crosswalk to make sustainability reporting easier by visually displaying where Superior Environmental Performance overlaps with the Sustainable Development Goals.

Looking for resources to help you go beyond compliance? We have compiled links to case studies, best management practices, articles and tools that will inspire ideas to continue your journey down the path toward superior environmental performance. Check out this tool!