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MDEQ measures 'green-ness'

More and more Mississippi businesses are touting their commitment to being good corporate citizens as it pertains to the environment. Dedication to “going green” is definitely trendy.

But, which companies are leaders in being environmentally friendly? The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEA) has a new program to answer that question. In fact, it has already “graduated” its first class.

enHance is a voluntary statewide incentive program that encourages environmental stewardship and recognizes environmental leaders. Similar to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Performance Track program, the enHance program showcases the environmental leaders who make a commitment to promote and implement practices that reduce waste, conserve resources and strive for environmental excellence through continuous improvement.

The program has been years in the making, and the MDEQ took advice from a number of federal and state organizations.

“We started working on the program just after I got here in 2004,” said Robbie Wilbur, director of communications at MDEQ.

He said the Mississippi Manufacturers Association (MMA) expressed initial interest in a program to quantify companies’ commitment to the environment. The MDEQ subsequently signed a memorandum of agreement with the EPA, and MDEQ also consulted with other states, including a representative from Virginia, who was brought to Mississippi by the MMA.

Applicants for enHance are accepted once per year. Membership is valid for three years. After that period, entities must reapply.

In January, MDEQ unveiled the first class of members in enHance program. The members of the first class of Leaders are:

• Baxter Healthcare Corporation in Cleveland

• Eka Chemicals in Columbus

• Haworth Inc. in Bruce

• Hunter Douglas in Tupelo

• International Paper in Redwood

• Nucor and General Recycling in Flowood

DTE Petcoke in Vicksburg was chosen as the only Steward member. No Associate members were named.

In a statement, Eka Chemicals said, “As a long-standing corporate citizen of Mississippi, Eka Chemicals Inc. takes pride in fulfilling our obligations to our customers, our employees and our community. We gladly support and work closely with the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality as part of our civic duty and not because of permitted requirements. It is the desire of Eka to be successful by leading by example, showing integrity and responsibility in our actions. In doing so, Eka chose to volunteer for the enHance initiative to further demonstrate our commitment to environmental stewardship.”

Baxter Healthcare said the program is beneficial in many ways, and is a positive for its bottom line.

“Baxter pursues voluntary programs such as enHance because they are based on the premise that environmental program should go beyond complying with government regulations to strive for continual improvement,” the company said in a statement. “Operating a proactive environmental program rather than a compliance-based program helps reduce Baxter’s regulatory burden and yields savings for the company. Baxter’s proactive program also produces savings and other benefits that are not easily measured, such as increased goodwill, reputation, brand value, increased sales and improved employee morale.”

Wilbur said the first enHance class gives the program a firm foundation. Trudy Fisher, executive director of MDEQ, agreed.

“We are proud of our first class of applicants for enhance,” she said. “There are many excellent facilities in Mississippi who are aware of the effect they have on the environment and their surrounding communities. We are pleased to now have a way to recognize those who go above and beyond their requirements.”

Applications for the next class of enHance will be accepted beginning July 1, 2009. For more information, visit www.deq.state.ms.us.

Contact MBJ staff writer Wally Northway at wally.northway@msbusiness.com.

About Wally Northway

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