Discussion and Conclusion

Looking back, site-based approaches to environmental management, developed since mid-seventies, focus on treating environmental problems at 'end of pipe'. Education in environmental management and sciences from this time focussed mainly on environmental problems and their causes, environmental protection legislation, environmental management systems, air and water monitoring, water treatment and air pollution control, waste management, and resource and energy use. Such knowledge is important in managing and reducing the environmental impact of any particular industrial operation.

Looking forward, managing environmental impacts of the life-cycle of products from raw material extraction to end-of-life involves altogether different issues, requiring additional skills from environmental and 'sustainability' managers. In addition to a basis of understanding of current environmental issues, sociology, ethics, economics, and sustainable development, risk assessment and management, and life-cycle assessment methods, further expertise is essential as listed below:

• Managing hazardous substances in supply chains:

– Substance compliance regulations

– Materials usage and engineering

– Product testing and chemical analysis

– Supply chain management

– Stock control and auditing

• Ensuring energy efficiency of products:

– Energy efficiency legislation

– Product development and engineering

– Government relations and stakeholder engagement

– International standardisation processes

– Consumer behaviour and market research

– Product testing and power measurement

• Implementing EPR for wastes:

– EPR legislation

– Contract management for PROs

– Recycling standards and technologies

– Company accounting systems such as SAP to report sales volumes

Managing flows of hazardous substances, recyclable materials, and energy use throughout the life-cycle of products and considering entire industrial supply chains with the aim of reducing their environmental impact are administratively and logistically complex. Producers often do not have complete knowledge or direct control of complex supply chains and cannot always accurately predict the future outcomes of technology development. Environmental managers must find new ways to address gaps in understanding and implement procedures to ensure producers can comply with this new wave of product-based environmental legislation, and ultimately to solve and prevent environmental problems at source.

There appears to be very little corresponding information or knowledge of contemporary approaches to environmental management in the available literature, and furthermore, students may miss out if further education only equips them with knowledge to understand and assess the implications from a life-cycle or sustainability perspective. For example, imagine a surgeon only taught how to diagnose heart disease, but not how to conduct heart surgery. From a policy perspective, lessons from practical experience reinforce the need for harmonised product-based requirements including applicable standards, product categorisation, reporting, and proof of compliance. For industrial ecology to move forwards, the practical challenges and approaches, the administrative procedures, and the management methods required to solve environmental problems at various stages of a product's lifecycle are surely worth further consideration.

Acknowledgements The author would like to thank Dr. Joachim Zietlow, and Reid Lifset for their assistance.

 
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