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U.S., Mexico Firms Sign On to Pollution Accord

Environment: Calls For Voluntary Action By Companies

Representatives from the United States and Mexico gathered June 5 in San Diego to discuss their continuing commitment to saving the environment.

The discussion was part of a national conference jointly sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Multi-State Working Group on Environmental Management Systems. The representatives were on hand to discuss their support of the Seven Principles of Environmental Stewardship for the 21st century.

The Seven Principles document has received support from private firms, business associations and environmental organizations in both countries since it was signed last June.

It was jointly developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Mexico’s Secretariat of Environmental, Natural Resources and Fisheries, the U.S.-Mexico Chamber of Commerce, and the Border Environment Cooperation Commission.

Several Mexican industries signed on in February, including the Confederation of Industrial Chambers, the Mexican Employers’ Federation and the Border Trade Alliance.

The principles are designed to promote voluntary private sector actions that go beyond compliance with environmental laws, to encourage environmental stewardship, said Lawrence Sperling, environmental attach & #233; with the U.S. Embassy in Mexico.

The principles include compliance assurance, commitments by management, open communication and voluntary audits, he said.

Financial Benefits

By incorporating these goals and measuring their progress in meeting these goals, companies can maximize their environmental performance, Sperling said.

Companies that are environmentally responsible tend to do better financially in the long run than those that are not, said Winston Hickox, secretary of California’s Environmental Protection Agency.

Also, some companies which take on a greater role in environmental stewardship, such as the Ford Motor Co., are demanding the same thing of the suppliers who do business with them, Hickox said.

Carlos Gonzalez Guzman agreed. As a spokesman for Mexico’s equivalent of the Environmental Protection Agency, he noted that less polluting facilities are also more efficient and more competitive.

Mexico currently has 1,500 facilities which have signed on, with between 4,000 and 10,000 workers and representing about half of the industrial gross national product of the country. There have been 54,000 instances of environmental improvements, at a cost of $1.5 billion, Guzman said.

Participating companies include Ford, General Motors and Kimberly-Clark, Guzman said.

Portable Principles

Sperling said many of the companies that have signed on are either U.S.-owned, or do business in the United States. The intention of the Seven Principles was that they be portable and could be adhered to anywhere, he said.

Many of the maquiladoras were already doing some of the activities at the core of the Seven Principles, Sperling noted.

The intention of drafting the document was to formalize the procedures, encourage businesses to take credit for the environmental work they are already doing, and continue to work to improve their processes, Sperling said.


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