“Environmental leverage is a tool for balancing the economic and environmental merit of projects in order to develop a strategic environmental plan”. Pollution prevention activities are often justified in terms of cost. Companies often provide funding for projects with significant economic benefits.
In doing this, projects with substantial environmental merits, but lacking in economic merits are never supported. Therefore it becomes critical to evaluate waste generation with respect to a unit of product or service.
This requires that a specific work unit accounts for a specific amount of waste generation or TRI release. Work units may include hourly labor, raw material used, number of parts, the weight of final product, dollar value of the final product, or another appropriate unit of work. Facilities are often asked to report the adjusted quantity change when reporting pollution prevention progress. This measure allows for changes in business or production activities that generate waste.
Progress may be recognized even if waste generation increases. The ideal situation would be to justify projects based on both cost and the environmental impact of a pollution source. ERM-Southwest, Inc. has developed environmental leverage in order to quantify this impact with respect to the mass, toxicity, and fate of pollutants involved. This formula illustrates the reduction in “environmental units” resulting from the implementation of a project. This is one of the few attempts to go beyond the standard methods of assessing pollution prevention efforts by quantifying pollution with respect to toxicity and environmental impact.
According to this source, by combining the concept of environmental leverage with common economic analysis techniques, management can ensure that capital expenditures for pollution prevention and waste minimization are consistent with the long-term environmental strategy developed for a facility.