Good environmental  standards and goals have to fulfil a few simple conditions:

They can be measured
Environmental standards and goals do not necessarily have to be numerical, but they must be quantifiable and  measurable in some way. This means that it has to be clear when exactly a goal has been reached. An example of a measurable goal is a goal that  is not numerical is that all employees should receive 4 hours education about the environment in the next 12 months. This is not a numerical goal, but it is clear that it has been reached when all employees have received the necessary environmental education.

Are built on basic guidelines and have a defined time frame
Goals have to be based on known basic facts. A goal to reduce the use of fuel by 5% in fact says nothing. This goal does not specify what is the basic figure nor when the goal shall be reached, i.e. next year or during the next 10 years. Better would be to construct a goal that  would state that vehicle fuel use should be reduced by 5% during the year 2009 compared to the year 2008.

Are clearly specified and use a known method of measurement
When goals are defined it is also important to specify right from the beginning, how to demarcate and measure the said goal. A common mistake is when a company specifies that it will diminish energy use by X% during a specific interval. If we continue using the example of 5% reduction of fuel use during a 2-year interval, the question arises whether the goal should only include vehicles owned by the company or also vehicles owned by the employees themselves but used during work hours. This has to be defined before the goals are stated. It is also possible to measure things in many different ways and it has to be clear right from the beginning how to measure the goal. If the specifications are unclear from the beginning, the results will always be unclear.

Must be realistic
Goals have to be realistic. There is no sense in setting a goal which already has been achieved or which never will be reached. Those goals will never serve the purpose of measuring the environmental work in  the company. Instead they only reveal that the company is not in fact working according to environmental standards.

Consider external influences and changes in the market environment
Goals always have to be defined in such a way that it is  the employees themselves that attain the goals using their own methods instead of relying on favorable external circumstances. If the goal is for instance to reduce energy use by 5% but at the same time if production diminishes by 20% it is clear that the goal was attained due to unfavorable external conditions.  Sales diminished by 20% and therefore it is only reasonable that the result will reflect this fact. Goals are therefore often stated with reference to other factors such as turnover, sales figures, km driven per vehicle, number of employees and so on. There are however some exceptions from this, for instance companies generally specify goals about how to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases without considering factors such as turnover or number of employees. In this case the company may not be reducing it’s energy use but changing into more environmentally friendly energy sources.

Grafik: Guðrún Tryggvadóttir and Signý Kolbeinsdóttir ©

Dec. 2, 2013
Finnur Sveinsson
Finnur Sveinsson „Einkenni góðra umhverfisviðmiða“, Náttú Dec. 2, 2013 URL: [Skoðað:July 23, 2019]
Efni má nota eða vitna í samkvæmt almennum venjum sé heimilda getið með slóð eða fullri tilvitnun hér að ofan.
skrifað: May 27, 2007
breytt: June 14, 2014