The EPA should incorporate sustainability tools in its decision making and collaborate with private-sector companies and non-government organizations, according to a report by the National Research Council.
The report was created at the EPA’s request, and builds on a 2011 report by the National Research Council, Sustainability and the EPA, which recommended that the EPA develop a “sustainability toolbox” of analytic tools that would help the agency implement a more holistic assessment of environmental, economic and social factors in its decision making.
The report provides several case studies to illustrate how the EPA can incorporate sustainability tools into decisions. One case study illustrates how to build consideration of the “three sustainability pillars” — social, environmental and economic concerns — into the criteria used to select a remedy for a site remediation project.
The report also notes that the EPA needs a tool to analyze the social cost of carbon – an estimate of the monetized damage associated with future effects of an increase in greenhouse gas emissions. This approach would allow government agencies to evaluate and incorporate the benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
In addition, the EPA should broaden its view to look at reducing emissions or waste releases from individual point sources in specific economic sectors to an approach that considers life-cycle effects of business processes along the entire value chain of a product’s development, including raw material extraction, manufacture, consumer use and reuse.
Although private-sector experiences are not applicable to all of EPA’s mission-related activities, the agency should collaborate with industry and other organizations and leverage their experience and insights, the report adds.
In a report earlier this year, McKinsey & Company recommended that businesses should partner up with governments, local communities, investors, non-governmental organizations and other companies in their sustainability efforts, which echoes a report by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.
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