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“An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure”

By
Shantanu Roy
shantanu.roy@hotmail.com

Business is expected to contribute to economic development and social progress. Undoubtedly


the Indian government‟s thrust to promote small and medium enterprises (SMEs) has reinforced
this statement. While on one hand the contribution to the economy has been significant on the
other hand the societal contribution has been in the form of vast employment opportunities
created. But in the last decade, the SMEs have been undergoing two-pronged predicament, one
of recession and the other of growing pressure for better performance in the environmental front.
The time has come to shift from „Brown‟ economics to „Green‟ economics due to the current
concern for environmental issues and the requirement of improved financial performance.

It is important to realize that businesses as a whole interact with the environment and every sub-
activity with in the businesses also interacts with the environment in some way or the other.
Impact on the environment is not an outcome of the production process alone. Look at the
following scenarios:

 The production process at the first place got designed by a team which would have described
the activities to be followed for the production. If this team would have taken into
consideration the environmental principles, the environmental impact would be low through
out the process life. However the lack of awareness would be creating a situation which
would need additional expenses on a day to day basis.
 Similarly if the team responsible for purchasing the raw material for production misses out
on the environmental criteria, the input raw material might be the source of environmental
problems.
 Coming down to the plant personnel, whose awareness and contribution to environmental
preservation can make a difference if and only if they realize the impacts of their actions on
the environment in general.

In order to reduce the impacts of the business, therefore, it is essential to work at the all levels.
And this also means that the available personnel controlling the sub-activity need not only to
know what to do but also to know if not done what is the consequence.

When conventional cost reduction and productivity improvement programs targeted to SMEs
have generally ignored environmental issues and have given them little opportunity to centralize
such issues in their business strategies, Cleaner Production (CP) appears to be the solution for
the productivity conscious businesses to be in contemporary market of environmental
consciousness. CP focuses on preventing or minimising the generation of wastes and emissions.
The basic idea of CP is that it makes more sense to avoid creating a problem altogether rather
than trying to remedy the problem. It is commonly called proactive approach to waste
management.

CP means economic savings from reduced consumption of raw materials and energy, and lower
treatment costs as well as other benefits such as a better company image and better working
conditions. CP changes often reduce workers exposure to hazardous chemicals, as well as the
frequency and severity of accidents and chemical releases. Products that are designed and
produced with CP concepts in mind are often less harmful for consumers to use. In other words

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CP combines environmental protection with quality, cost-effectiveness and technological
innovation to bring significant competitive advantage.

CP is based on what is commonly known as the “Precautionary Principle,” also known by the
old saying, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Experience clearly shows that
executives respond to approaches that imply profits or better business management, and do not
respond well to approaches that imply actions motivated by anything other than business
reasons.

What is not cleaner production?

 Adoption of conventional End-of-Pipe pollution control techniques to treat wastes to


prescribed limits.
 Waste disposal techniques.
 Dilution, applied to a waste stream after generation, does not reduce the absolute amount of
hazardous constituents entering the environment

Although CP has explicit benefits, the concept has not really picked up due to the absence of
coherent and close working group to facilitate enhancement of information and also to provide
guidance to the needy. In the absence of such a group, the success achieved by an individual unit
remains confined to the unit itself without having any multiplier effect. Over the past years,
many CP projects have been successfully completed in various industrial sectors.

The gravity of the problem of the SMEs is understood when a look at their functioning is
reviewed in the context of their scale of economy which is very low compared to the
international producers. Couple to this the use of obsolete technologies for the process, and
immediately the problems of unproductive use of resources come to the forefront. And
understanding that unproductively used resource manifests itself as pollution the reasons for
doing Cleaner Production becomes obvious. On the other hand it has been realized that state-of-
the-art technologies are economically not the solutions for these industries. CP activities in
various parts of India once again have proved that the reduction of waste at source can be the
only solution for this problem. Fortunately, the past studies have indicated that there is a good
scope for minimising the waste generated from the plant. Most of the process steps can be
redesigned with a strong emphasis on Pollution prevention. There is also a high scope of
optimizing the resource consumption as well as recovering of useful byproducts from the waste
streams.

Tapping of this potential does not require much investment. In fact, significant monetary as well
as environmental benefits can be achieved with minimal inputs. In addition most of the time, the
CP measures would improve the cost economic viability of installing and operating end of pipe
pollution control systems.

Myths about CP
 Has limited Potential
 Requires sophisticated technology
 Requires professionals
 Requires highly educated and skilled Manpower
 Requires high financial resources

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Cleaner production is an ongoing,  Requires major shutdown of production processes
comprehensive examination of the  Requires additional space
operations at a facility with the goal of  Adds to the production costs
minimising all types of wastes. This  Total automation must
saves money and allows the company to  One time activity
concentrate on its primary goal of  Good only for large multinationals
providing goods and services. Cleaner
production is the only way for industries to survive and remain competitive in the emerging
global scenario.

The green movement will grow stronger and so will the economic noose. It is for the industry to
make the change. It is very much in industries interest to do so. The need is to face the challenge,
shoulder the responsibility, and fulfill the expectations from which they cannot escape. The tool
of CP is available. It is neither too late nor too soon for any enterprise to start implementing CP
measures. All that will be needed is a willing management‟s commitment and an organized and
involved team.