Their success lies in solving environmental problems not generally addressed by specific laws and regulations, such as reducing greenhouse gases or encouraging wise use of energy. Focusing on pollution prevention, organizations set and reach environmental goals such as conserving water and energy, or reducing greenhouse gases, toxic emissions, solid wastes, indoor air pollution and pesticide risk.
National commitment should consist in specifying the policy and action to be taken or initiated at the government level. This includes a policy statement explicitly clarifying the commitment of the government and of the ministers involved, and a government policy document specifying national objectives, the underlying principles, the necessary legislative and non-legislative tools, and the principles of monitoring and evaluation. It also includes a national strategic action plan, intended to identify the actions necessary to achieve objectives specified in the national policy. The strategic action plan should also specify the role and action to be taken by each stakeholder, including government institutions and local authorities. The entire national system should be audited and evaluated periodically, so that adjustments can be made as necessary, and to ensure continuous feedback from society.
In negotiated agreements between government and industry, certain industrial sectors agree to take specific actions without the need for legislation. The negotiations allow industry to influence the targets and objectives and to set a suitable time scale. Industry is left largely free to determine the means by which targets and objectives are met.
Speaking at the British Library Conference on Sustainable Business (October 1998), UK Environment Minister Michael Meacher, addressing industry voluntary schemes for the environment said: "The first step to voluntary improvement is to measure your impacts in the first place, so you can voluntarily manage them and set targets. It is particularly important you do this for your main forms of energy consumption - and go public - showing your commitment. Without this, major companies that say they believe in the voluntary route to improvement do not sound very convincing. That is why I am challenging top companies to measure and report comprehensively on one of their key environmental impacts - their emissions of greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide. I am challenging you to set yourselves demanding targets for cost-effective, profitable improvements in performance and efficiency."< The UK Government has recently completed its consultation on Sustainable Business - examining options for the business contribution to the developing national Sustainable Development strategy. Over 400 businesses large and small, trade associations and NGOs responded to this consultation and voted three to one in favour of Government selecting one or two leading sustainability indicators against which businesses should report. The narrow balance of respondents was in favour of a voluntary approach to the adoption of leading indicators; even though a clear majority said they thought compulsion would be needed to get a big increase in the number of companies reporting.
2. Every government's responsibility is - working with business and citizen's groups - to devise the policy framework that will allow consistent and realistic goals to be developed and met. Such a framework should be target-oriented and cost-effective in implementation.