Manufacturing industry challenges and responses to EU and California product-targeted environmental regulations

author(s): 
Michael Kirschner
2008

Manufacturers worldwide find themselves dealing with a brand new strain of regulation targeting the environmental performance of their products. While able to (often barely) comply with these regulations, they are experiencing extraordinary difficulties doing it in an efficient and effective manner so costs are extremely high and the results are not nearly as dramatic as hoped for by the regulators. A key challenge is that, having never before dealt with these sorts of issues, the intellectual and informational framework necessary to support it is nonexistent. Universities, standards organizations, industries, and governments - even those doing the regulating - do not have as complete an understanding of the true requirements and impacts of this new regulatory paradigm. This paper will describe the regulations, how they target products, how governments, manufacturers, and standards organizations have approached these issues and why, the problems with these approaches, and ultimately propose that the solution to the problem may lie in concerted communication between the stakeholders. To this end, the paper proposes the creation and funding of a global public/private partnership focused on pre-competitive identification of industry needs, mechanisms to ensure industry has a better understanding of the context of environmental regulations, and all stakeholders have the ability to cross-fertilize and develop approaches to common solutions.

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