Recession is no excuse

15 May 2009

In times of economic uncertainty, companies may focus on cost-cutting at the expense of environmental concerns and initiatives. Peter Ward, MCERTS Inspector and senior product manager at Emerson Process Management, Mobrey Measurement Division, warns against putting environmental priorities on hold.

Having been in the process and control industry for more than 30 years I am well aware that legislation, and specifically the costs associated with any given directive, will always be a contentious issue. Now, given the current economic situation, the focus on cost versus benefit is even more prevalent – understandably so. My concern is that the recession becomes a catch-all excuse for putting environmental priorities on hold, at a time when we are finally getting to the stage when important new schemes should be embraced, not shelved.

MCERTS is one such scheme. And as an MCERTS inspector I am often privy to the various debates relating to cost versus benefit - whether it be a product manufacturer, a water company representative or, as the legislation continues its expansion into industry, a plant manager or manufacturing executive.

While I can certainly understand the concerns I hear raised, I think it is important that we take a moment to remind ourselves why the scheme was first created.

At its most basic level MCERTS is about identifying and helping mitigate environmental damage. And it is only through the on-going long-term collection, and most importantly analysis, of accurate data that we will have a genuine picture of the impact of a given process.

Like any other scheme it needs time and commitment. We need to help all of the various organisations involved to find the best way forward rather than let what, are in some cases, corporate-led agendas get in the way of fundamentally a good and much needed set of standards.

The most vocal criticism of the scheme to date has come from product manufacturers concerned by the associated costs of developing MCERTs certified products. Having carried out the process ourselves, I can understand their hesitation, but not their aversion. Yes, it requires time and commitment (hence my call to action) but ultimately ensures that a company can differentiate itself. For example we remain one of only two companies with MCERTs certified products for open channel flow.

Regarding the benefit of MCERTs certified products, this goes back to the ultimate advantages that accurate, reliable measurement provides. The products that have been certified provide an additional level of assurance, often having undergone trials in situ at treatment sites across the UK. That assurance covers both legislative and performance-related requirements, meeting the needs of today while also providing invaluable data for improved long-term planning.

The focus now surely needs to be on increasing product choice, and I fully support SIRA and its attempts to promote the benefits of product certification. Last year we were involved in a series of seminars run by SIRA and EA and we hope to do more of these in 2009. I believe the key to the success of any legislation is a combination of knowledge and commitment.

Ultimately we are all responsible for better environmental accountability, from the amount of water we use at home to the products we manufacture and to the way we run our business. We need to support initiatives such as MCERTS and help them evolve into workable practices rather than allow ourselves to focus solely on the negative aspects.

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