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Our Planet Matters

Our Planet Matters

monitors 03-11-10

The Earth’s ecosystem is something many of us take for granted. Manufacturing in the US, Canada and most European countries is compliant  with clean air, clean water and solid waste disposal regulations as well as reducing ozone-depleting chemical use. In places like China, India and South Africa, there is little to no enforcement to protect air, water and land.

In China, there have been multiple reports of lake water poisoning due to pollution from heavy-metal industries. The crops and wildlife of provinces like Hunan and Guangdong have suffered heavy losses and the people living in these provinces are now drinking contaminated water.

Many environmental organizations are outraged about the heavy pollution going on in these provinces. Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs in China, says “The secrecy in this industry means companies are less open to dialogue and exchange of information…From our experience, we see that ‘environmental commitments’ of many IT companies is empty talk. They tell us that they have a supplier code of conduct that says that if their tier-two suppliers have a problem, they will work with their tier-one suppliers to solve this. But many don’t even know who their tier two suppliers are.”

Chinese companies produce three times the amount of carbon emissions per ton of steel. The US Steel Industry, like many others, has struggled to compete with companies who receive government support to export and are allowed to pollute.

China has some strict environmental laws on the books, but the fines that may be levied to enforce the regulations are so insignificant that they are seen merely as a cost of doing business rather than a true deterrent. Local authorities that collect the fines will often recycle the revenues back to the polluters as tax breaks. In addition, as with its weak health and safety regime, China’s legal system makes it extremely difficult for pollution victims to properly seek any redress. A major problem with enforcement is that China’s state environmental protection agency is critically understaffed and under-budgeted. While the US Environmental Protection Agency employs close to 17,000, China’s State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) had only 300 – this to oversee environmental protection in a country with well over a billion people. Perhaps no one is more aware of the impotence of the China SEPA than its outspoken Deputy Directory Pan Yue who has warned that: “China’s population is so big and its resources so scarce that if we continue to ignore our environmental problems, that will bring disaster for us and the world.”1

Many foreign manufacturing companies favor faster, cheaper, and less environmentally friendly methods because of the pressure to meet price and delivery demands. Bringing manufacturing back on our shores will lessen that demand, and send a message that may force foreign manufacturers to consider more environmentally friendly methods. Manufacturing companies here in the US must comply with environmental protection guidelines and dispose of waste in a safe, clean way. This compliance increases costs for US-made products which means that you may pay more. But isn’t leaving a clean planet for our children and grandchildren worth it?

Besides these serious concerns regarding manufacturing plants adhering to environmentally responsible processes, consider the fuel consumed to transport goods to our markets.  When we buy products made in our country, a fraction of the oil is burned to get it to you!  So show your support, and help keep our planet clean.

1 Navarro, Peter, (2009) Benchmarking Foreign Advantages.  In R. McCormack, Manufacturing a Better Future for America (pg. 134)

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