"As more and more businesses are mainstreaming environmental
protection, I hope we can learn lessons from the past."
Scott Vaughan, the Commissioner of the Environment and
Ottawa, May 8, 2012 - The "jobs vs. the
environment" debate of the past is changing to reflect what
businesses have actually experienced, says Scott Vaughan, the
Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, in his
report tabled today in the House of Commons. (Pictured left).
The report presents far reaching assessments of the federal
government's approach for dealing with Canada's greenhouse gas
emissions and its management of contaminated sites.
The government's approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions
is unlikely to meet Canada's target for 2020, says Vaughan. He
noted that despite some improvement in greenhouse gas (GHG)
emissions reductions, it is unlikely that there is enough time left
to achieve the government's 2020 target to reduce Canada's
emissions by 17 percent of 2005 levels.
"Environment Canada's own forecast shows that in 2020, Canada's
emissions will be 7 percent above 2005 level, not
17 percent below it," said Mr. Vaughan.
With respect to the management of contaminated sites, the
federal government has made progress identifying contaminated sites
for which it is responsible, and to date has closed almost half of
them. However, addressing the remaining sites will be a major
challenge, says Vaughan.
"The government has reported its combined environmental
liabilities at $7.7 billion", said Vaughan. "Many of
these sites are buried and out of the public eye, but they will
impose human health risks and environmental and financial burdens
for generations to come."
The most far reaching aspects of this year's Commissioner's
report touch on the broad issue of business and the
"Two decades ago, some feared that controlling pollution or
protecting forests would stifle economic growth, cripple
productivity, and suffocate innovation," said Vaughan in his
"Commissioner's Perspective" commentary.
"But businesses are finding innovative ways to lower costs while
meeting environmental targets."
"The Commissioner's Perspective" notes that during the Rio Earth
Summit 20 years ago, many saw a choice of either economic
growth or environmental protection; time has proven that they are
not necessarily mutually exclusive.
Businesses need the flexibility to identify cost-effective
and efficient ways to comply with regulations. Record shows that
businesses have found more innovative and less expensive ways than
anyone in Ottawa could have envisaged at the time these regulations
Today, businesses have found cost-effective, efficient ways to
comply with environmental regulations. Many businesses in Canada
and abroad have reaped returns on their investment in
environmentally sustainable practices, and are making
sustainability a permanent part of their business agenda.
Decades of experience in environmental regulations show a range
of approaches beyond the comparatively static command-and-control
regulations, notes the Commissioner. "The one priority consistently
expressed by business leaders is the need for regulatory
predictability, allowing sufficient time to invest in new
Most business leaders said that environmental issues mattered to
them because of competition and corporate reputation in the global
marketplace. One third said that adding sustainability to
their corporate goals had strengthened bottom-line
profitability.Commissioner Vaughan cited a 2011 global survey
of business executives, conducted by the MIT Sloan Management
Review and the Boston Consulting Group. More than
70 percent of the 3,000 executives in over
100 countries that were polled said that sustainability
had a permanent place on their business agenda-an increase
from the previous year.
Notes Vaughan, it is no surprise that businesses are constantly
finding ways to lower costs while meeting regulatory or other
environmental targets. He cites an analysis by Harvard Business
School's Michael Porter, one of the world's leading authorities on
business competitiveness: firms that meet stringent environmental
regulations tend to have higher rates of innovation and
productivity than industries that do not comply with those
Porter's explanation is simple: pollution, inefficient energy
systems, and industrial waste all represent wasted profits. Firms
that reduce pollution are more often productive, innovative, and
Similar findings were noted in a 2010 report by the
Canadian Council of Chief Executives Canadian business leaders said
that in terms of the bottom line, it makes sense to improve energy
Summing up his commentary, Commissioner Vaughan questioned
whether the actual business experience and more inclusive
measurement of the costs and benefits of environmental protection
would continue to change the jobs-versus-environment debate.
Citing the enormous costs of cleaning up contaminated sites as
an example, he stated "Contaminated sites are a monument to poor
planning, inadequate environmental assessment, and weak
"These sites are an expensive reminder that future generations
must live with mistakes we make today."
"The Commissioner's Perspective" is available