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Red Tape Will Hinder Trade: Study Questions Environmental and Economic Benefits of ISO14000

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Red Tape Will Hinder Trade: Study Questions Environmental and Economic Benefits of ISO14000

WASHINGTON, DC March 22, 1997—Imposing mandatory uniform environmental standards on industrial firms will result in both environmental and economic harm according to a study about the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) released by the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

"Any sort of compulsion to implement ISO14000 environmental standards might seriously distort the market and lock in a potentially inferior approach to environmental management. Compulsory compliance would discriminate against firms who were already complying with regulations, but have no formal environmental management procedure," writes Julian Morris, study author and Research Fellow at the Institute of Economic Affairs in the United Kingdom.

ISO14000 is a series of "consensus" international environmental standards developed in an attempt to provide an alternative to command and control style environmental regulations. Upon closer examination, the study, ISO14000: Environmental Regulation by Any Other Name?, finds the that the new standards may actually pose their own threat to the environment and international economies.

Other findings include:

ISO14000 is inflexible, as key criteria take years to develop and are not changed for several years thereafter. As a result, it is likely that scientific developments will overtake the standard.

Companies will be encouraged to comply with ISO14000, but not necessarily to think holistically about improving their performance by using resources more efficiently. ISO14000 may crowd out other methodologies for developing environmental management programs.

ISO14000 involves a costly auditing procedure that might actually result in the redirection of resources away from investment in more environment friendly processes. This impact would be greatest on smaller firms.

The cost of becoming registered under ISO14000 is high in developed countries. In less developed countries, the cost is likely to be astronomic. The use of ISO14000 as a condition in an international trade agreement would be nothing short of environmental imperialism.

For more information, contact Greg Smith at (202) 331-1010 or gsmith@CEI.org.