Wisconsin Green Tier – Benefits and Risks to Wisconsin Business

The following is a brief discussion of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) Green Tier program and some of the benefits it can have for business in Wisconsin and those doing business with WDNR Green Tier companies. The article also discusses some of the potential risks to these same business and WDNR that may result from stakeholders loosing confidence it what the Green Tier logo is supposed to mean.

Benefits to Business

A few months age I met with Pat Stevens who had just begun his new position as the Administrator of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Division of Air and Waste. I was particularly interested in the potential changes to the Green Tier Program with a new administration and WDNR Secretary. During our discussions, Pat said he believed the new secretary and the new administration would continue to support and try to expand the Green Tier Program. One of the areas we explored was how Wisconsin businesses, in general, perceive the program and how the WDNR can gain broader acceptance with businesses by making some improvements.

I told Pat my experience had been that many potential Green Tier participants believe the benefits of the program do not justify the investment of effort needed to apply to the WDNR and become accepted into the program. I told him that we have also heard from some businesses that they perceive Green Tier participation as potentially increasing the risk of regulatory agency oversight and fines rather than reducing burdensome regulatory oversight.

Pat and I discussed a few ideas about how the WDNR can generate interest in the program through incentives, such as streamlined air emission construction permits for new or modified major sources and reduced reporting burdens. Within the last several weeks I have been pleased to see that a Tier 2 contract with Serigraph and correspondence with 3M in Prairie Du Chien ,WI included provisions for streamlined air permitting as Pat and I had discussed. I believe this is a move in the right direction and should help improve businesses perception of the potential benefits of Green Tier program.

Risks to Business and WDNR (Green Wash)

Pat and I also discuss what I perceive as significant potential risk to business participating in the Green Tier program and WDNR itself. The risk is that the process used by WDNR to confirm the existence of an ISO 14001 EMS may not be sufficiently robust to prevent some organizations acceptance into the program that are not really committed to the effective operations of the EMS. These participants want to be able to fly the Green Tier flag as evidence they are superior environmental performers but they are not actually committed to continual environmental performance improvement through an EMS.

This issue is particularly important for Tier 2 participants who may be receiving significant benefits under the green tier contracts. An example of this potential risk can be seen in WDNR acceptance of Serigraphs claim to be ISO 14001 “certified” as the basis for acceptance in to the Green Tier Program.

Although Serigraph has claimed to be certified to ISO14001 a examination of credentials of the Certification Body (Verysis, LLC) that issued the ISO 14001:2004 Certificate to Serigraph indicates that this organizations is not accredited by ANAB (the internationally recognized accreditation body in the USA) or any other International Accreditation Forum member. The accreditation of Verysis issued by an organization with a similar name “International Accreditation Board”  but does not reference any internationally recognized critera used to evaluate Verisys Registrars.

Here in the USA ANAB accredited ISO 14001 registrars undergo and extensive evaluation of their certification and audit process to ensure that they conform to the requirements of ISO/IEC 17021 Conformity assessment — Requirements for bodies providing audit and certification of management systems. There is no evidence that Verysis has undergone such an assessment.

The Wisconsin Statute for the Green Tier program describes what WDNR needs to consider when determining the acceptability of Green Tier audit in § 299.83 (7a) as follows:

7m)?Environmental auditors. The department may not approve an outside environmental auditor for the purposes of sub. (3) (d) 4. or (5) (c) 2. unless the outside environmental auditor is accredited by an accreditation body that complies with standards of the International Organization for Standardization for accreditation bodies or meets criteria concerning education, training, experience, and performance that the department determines are equivalent to the criteria in the standards and guidance of the International Organization for Standardization for entities providing audit and certification of environmental management systems.

The basic problem is that unless WDNR does at good job of reviewing the qualifications and objectivity of the auditors performing Green Tier audits there is a significant risk that at some point unqualified auditors will be performing Green Tier audits and issuing certificates of conformance to organizations that do not deserve them. If these Green Tier participants are later found to not be the superior performers that WDNR claimed them to be there is significant potential for stakeholders to loose confidence in the meaning of the Green Tier logo. This would result in embarrassing times for both the WDNR and all the other Green Tier participants.

I am interested in your feedback on this issue. Do you think additonal incentives are need to increase Green Tier participation and is WDNR doing a good job of screening who should be admited to the Green Tier program. Please post a comment if you are so inclined.

Kevin Lehner, EMS-LA

President ECSI

This entry was posted in ISO 14001 by Kevin Lehner. Bookmark the permalink.

About Kevin Lehner

Kevin has been president of ECSI for over 25 years. His practice focuses on environmental and health and safety management systems training, consulting and auditing. He is an active member of the US Technical Advisory Committees to ISO 14001 and ISO 45001. He represents that USA at international meetings of these committees. He is also the lead developer of the CorrectTrack corrective action tracking app.