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Week of 31 July 2023: Too much?

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I once attended a conference where the speaker, the CEO of a major off shore paper company was the keynote. He chose to speak on their environmental track record.

In short, they were beating (coming in under) the regulatory requirements of their local government, already stringent, by about 50% for both air and water.

As I listened to his speech, I thought, "Why?" My next thought was this: "Is this a fiduciarily responsible action to take as regards your shareholders?"

Now, this was long before ESG, so there really was no other body to pass judgement on his leadership.

This speech haunted me for a long time, perhaps still does today.

I can see surpassing your regulatory limits by, say 10%, to keep from having an excursion that produces fines or bad headlines in the local paper, but 50%? It doesn't make sense to me.

Now we live in the age of ESG. So much in the news, I don't even feel it is necessary to define the acronym. But this has provoked a conversation in the halls of the US Congress as to whether following ESG guidelines is a violation of the fiduciary responsibilities of the corporate officers in charge.

Earlier this month, I stated that we all want clean water, clean air, and a nice place to live. Still true just a few weeks later now and this will always be true.

Where it becomes an issue is this: how clean is clean? What are we willing to pay for things to be incrementally cleaner?

It doesn't help that the politicians are largely ignorant. I attended another conference where a politician said that "pH is bad, we won't rest until we get pH to zero!" Good luck with that.

When I was a boy, there was no such thing as bottled water, home water filters and so forth in first world countries, rural or urban. Today these things are ubiquitous.

In 2006, I was diagnosed with Burkitt's Lymphoma. The doctors asked me a series of questions. In the 1960's, when I was a teenager, did I, (a) live on a farm, (b) handle synthetic fertilizers, (c) be in a situation where tobacco plants would touch my bare arms, and (d) drink farm well water. My answer to all of these was a resounding "Yes!"

By the way, when I was first diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma, when I was 49, I told the doctors I had worked in the pulp and paper industry for all my adult life. Could I have gotten NHL there? Their response was that they knew of nothing in the pulp and paper industry that would induce NHL.

So, I come back to the original question formed in a different manner, how far under the regulatory air and water standards should you operate? I think the answer is yet to be determined.

Be safe and we will talk next week.


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Members Opinions:
July 27, 2023 at 4:23pm
If you demonstrate that you can do much better than the regs, they will require it of everyone regardless of the cost. Seen it happen.

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