competency in formulating their overall business strategy than were the other respondents. Nearly 90 percent of peer-identified leaders (compared with 38 percent of other respondents) had mechanisms in place to drive design processes toward minimizing overall environmental impacts during the product or process concept development stage while addressing customer needs. Two-thirds of the leaders (compared with 37 percent of the others) subjected all product designs to a final environmental review and approval prior to market introduction. And leaders were more likely to have mechanisms in place to minimize life-cycle impacts of specific product or process designs through such techniques as design for environment or life-cycle analysis.
Leading firms tended to see environmental challenges as opportunities for product development, whereas other respondents tended to see them as regulatory threats. Leading firms also far more consistently reported increases in value to their corporate image (86 percent), access to their communities (57 percent), public opinion (43 percent), and business opportunities (43 percent) (Lowy and Wells, 2000).
The findings of this survey suggest strongly that at least leading firms would have a strong interest in the results of research such as that proposed here, and that such firms also are recognized as benchmarks and potential role models by others. Having such research supported by government agencies would increase the credibility of the results. Moreover, for many of the research questions raised here, studies sponsored by private-sector organizations, if conducted at all, may not address issues of public interest as effectively as government-supported research.
The recommended research may also be used by government decision makers, many of whom have shown interest in improving their understanding of business decision making in order to design more effective and efficient programs for environmental performance improvement. Examples include the recent proliferation of government-sponsored voluntary initiatives (Mazurek, 2002) at both the state and federal levels, as well as increased use of market-oriented and disclosure-based incentives as policy tools intended to promote improved environmental performance by businesses (Stavins, 2003; Tietenberg, 1998).
Finally, an additional reason for government use of this research is the increasing pressures for environmental performance improvement—and improved management and decision making more generally—on the part of many government-operated business enterprises themselves, such as water and wastewater treatment utilities, hospitals, military facilities, and others. For example, presidential Executive Order 13148, issued April 22, 2000, requires formal environmental management systems for all appropriate federal facilities.