The Health, Safety and Environment Award 2001

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This week the Business Leaders Forum, an organisation that represents many of top corporations in the Czech Republic, held its 11th annual ceremony for the Health, Safety and Environment Award. The awards are handed out to companies and municipalities whose projects contribute to exceptional improvements in the local environment and the health of employees and the general public. By Jan Velinger.

An hour and a half was all it took on Tuesday for the Business Leaders Forum to award the Health, Safety, and Environment Award for 2001 at a packed conference room in Prague's Palace Hotel. Before announcing this year's winner, an esteemed panel that included Environment Minister Milos Kuzvart as well as the Ambassador to Great Britain Anne Pringle. Panel members spoke about the importance of protecting the environment and praised the commitments of this year's proposals; one of the most poignant speeches was given by Mr Josef Zboril of the Association for Industry and Transport, who talked about the necessity for sustainable growth in industry while minimising environmental risks; Mr Zboril at times even seemed to evoke one of Greenpeace's most famous past slogans "Think Globally, Act Locally", apparently to show how close industry and commitment to health and the environment have become. When I spoke to Mr Zboril afterwards he spoke eloquently on environmental improvements in the paper mill industry, on which he is a long-time expert. In positivistic terms he said that not only is protection of the environment a necessity in today's world, it simply makes good business sense.

Out of 28 proposals the award the Health, Safety, and Environment Award for 2001 went to Tesla Sezam, a.s., a world-class manufacturer of integrated circuits used in the communications, computer, and auto industries. The company's plant in Roznov pod Radhostem in north Moravia, which employs well over a thousand employees, set no small example either: in an industry normally prone to high environmental impact, panel members noted the company had gone out of its way to surpass health and environment standards. I spoke to a past and present jury member for the awards, Pavel Policar, who outlined not only the most important factors taken into consideration by the jury, but also spoke about Tesla Sezam's commitment:

"The philosophy of the whole scheme is pro activity. Whatever is being invested and realised in the environment never had to be forced by law or sanctions or anything else, so that's one criteria which is common to all qualified and submitted projects. For the evaluation we had about ten criteria. Pro-activity was one of them, scope, how much was actually invested, but also the complexity of the project. The winning company, Tesla Sezam, was one of the most complex projects and had significant impact on the environment too."

Could you just elaborate a little bit on their proposal?

"Well, number one, we always looked at the project and the entrant, the company as such. The company is environmentally certified - ISO 1401 - they inherited from the previous regime a significant environmental burden at their premises, regarding water, soil contamination, ground water, etc. and waste, and have been significantly and systematically cleaning the whole site and everything, step-by-step. That's one issue, and certification. Along with that they do semiconductors and they try to focus on as maximum environmentally-friendly manufacture of semiconductors as possible. They are extremely good at that. Whatever they produce in the sense of manufacturing, they always judge and assure environmentally. So that was a multi-complex view of the company."

I guess it's not possible to underestimate the significance of this kind of award - you mentioned in that example from a company that won last year, saying that there are all the right reasons for being environmentally-friendly, and being even a fore-runner.

"Exactly, exactly. I mean, Green doesn't mean uneconomical or financially not sound, actually, nowadays Green, reasonable Green, means a financial and commercial competitive advantage, on a one to two year scale."

Were there any projects on the list which were not as great in scope, but which were also deserving?

"Absolutely! You certainly noticed that we had three categories of the awards, one of them was the tough and large industrial one, that was the winning one, the second was the municipal category, and the third one was actually a special prize to a company - Diakonie Broumov they collect - use clothes across the country... It actually does reach a significant scope these days, but it is not a mega-investment financial project into the environment. It is about motivating people, recycling waste, and it is about employing people who were on drugs, and re-socialising people. It's a scheme which definitely deserves respect and admiration, and they got a special prize for this."