Environmental standard

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Environmental standards are legal and administrative regulations or civil-law rules[1] regarding the treatment and maintenance of the environment that are set by the government who oversees a specific area. Environmental standards set by a government can include prohibiting specific activities, mandating a certain level or type of monitoring, requiring permits for use of land or water, and more.[2] Different environmental activities have different concerns and therefore different standards.[1]

Environmental standards help make goals of environmental protection into quantified and enforceable laws by considering scientific opinions from varying disciplines, the views of the general population, and social context. As a result, the process of determining and implementing environmental standards is complex. Environmental standards are set within legal, administrative or private contexts.[1]

The human environment is distinct from the natural environment. The concept of the human environment considers that humans are permanently interlinked with their surroundings, which are not just the natural elements (like air, water and soil) but also culture, communication, cooperations, and institutions. Setting environmental standards should preserve nature and the environment, protect against damages, and ideally repair past damages caused by the human way of life.[1]

Development of an Environmental Standard[edit]

When environmental standards were discussed, two main driving forces were influencing the development process. On the one hand was ecocentrism which frames the environment as having an intrinsic value divorced from human utility, and on the other hand was anthropocentrism which frames the environment as only having value in that it helps humanity survive. These contrary forces lead to problems in establishing standards, but the idea of shaping the world and preserving it for future generations is the leading keynote. Within the past few decades, the sensibility of people towards the topic of environmentalism is increasing, and because of that the demand of environmental protections has risen. This movement is caused by the development in science and medical knowledge as well as the improvement of measurement systems. With these improvements, scientists are able to further understand the impact of human-caused environmental destruction on human health and the biodiversity which composes the natural environment. These developments in science have been fundamental for the setting of the environmental standards within the past few decades.

Environmental standards often define a desired state (e.g. lake pH should be between 6.5 and 7.5) or limit alterations (e.g. no more than 50% of natural forest may be damaged). Statistical methods are used to determine the specific states and limits the environmental standard should enforce.

Concerning environmental issues uncertainties must always be considered. The first step to develop a standard is the evaluation of the specific risk. The expected value of the occurrence of the risk must be calculated. Than the possible damage should be classified. Three different types of damages were distinguished: changes due to physical-chemical environmental damages, ecological damages in plants and animals and damages done to human health. To establish an acceptable risk, in view of the expected collective benefit, the risk-induced costs and the costs of risk avoidance must be social balanced. The comparison is difficult to express in monetary units. Furthermore the risks have multiple dimensions, which should reached a correlation at the end of the balance process. At the balancing process the following steps should be considered:

  1. To establish objectives serving both the protection of life, health and environment and allowing for a rational allocation of social resources
  2. Studying the possible outcomes of the implementing these objectives
  3. Considering social costs or damages, including opportunity costs and benefits which will arise when any of the available options are not further pursued.

Into the balancing process the fairness of distributing the risks and the resilience (benefits) with respect to sustaining the productivity of the environment should be observed too. In addition to the standard, an implementation rule, indicating under what circumstances the standard will be considered violated, is commonly part of the regulations. Penalties and other procedures for dealing with regions out of compliance with the standard may be part of the legislation.[3][4][5]

Institution setting Environmental Standards[edit]

Environmental standards were set by different institutions. Most of the standards were based on the principle of voluntary self-commitment.

Governmental Institutions[edit]


With 193 member states the largest intergovernmental organisation, the environmental policy of the UN has a huge impact for the setting of international environmental standards. At the Earth submit 1992 in Rio the member states acknowledged their negative impact towards the environment for the first time. During this and the following Millennium Declaration the first development goals for environmental issues were set. Since then the risk of catastrophic caused by extreme acts of God has enhanced, by overuse of natural resources and the global warming. At the Paris Agreement 2015 the UN determined 17 Goals for a sustainable development. Besides the fight against global poverty the main focus of the goals is the preservation of our planet. These goals set a basement for global environmentalism. The environmental areas of water, energy, oceans, ecosystems, sustainable production and consume behaviour and climate protection were covered by the goals. The goals contain explanations which mediums where required to reach them.

Questionable is the follow-up and inspection, whether the member states fulfil the settled goals, because some members perceive inspection, or any other control form any external parties as an intervention into their inner affairs. Caused by this the implementation and follow-up are only controlled by the Voluntary National Reviews. The main control is done by statistical values, which are called indicators. These indicators deliver information, if the goals are reached.[6][7][8][9][10]

European Union[edit]

Within the “Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union“ the Union integrate a self-commitment towards the environment. In Title XX, Article 191.1 it is settled: “Union policy on the environment shall contribute to pursuit of the following objectives: — preserving, protecting and improving the quality of the environment, — protecting human health, — prudent and rational utilization of natural resources, — promoting measures at international level to deal with regional or worldwide environmental; problems, and in particular combating climate change.” All environmental actions are based on this article and lead to a suite of environmental laws. European environmental regulation covers air, biotechnologies, chemical, , climate change, environmental economics, health, industry and technology, land use, nature and biodiversity, noise, protection of the ozonosphere, soil, sustainable development, waste and water.

The European Environment Agency (EEA) consults the members states about environmental issues, including standards. [3][11][12][13]

The environmental standards set by European legislation includes precise parametric concentrations of pollutants and also includes target enevironmental concentrations to be achieved by specific dates.

See also: Environmental policy of the European Union


In the United States of America the development of standards is decentralised. The standards were developed by more than hundred different institutions, a lot of them are private ones. It is a plural system, which is mainly affected by the market and partly fragmented.

Ambient air quality standards[edit]

The National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) are set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate pollutants are in the air. The enforcement of these standards are designed to prevent further degradation of air quality.

States may set their own ambient standards but they must be lower than the national standard.[14] The NAAQS regulates the six criteria air pollutants: sulfur dioxide (SO2), particulate matter (PM10), carbon monoxide (CO), ozone (O3), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and lead (Pb).[15] To ensure that the ambient standards are met, the EPA uses the Federal Reference Method (FRM) and Federal Equivalent Method (FEM) systems measure the amount of pollutants in the air and that they are within the limits.[16]

Air emission standards[edit]

Emission standards are national regulations, managed by the EPA, that control the amount and concentration of pollutants that can be released into atmosphere in order to maintain air quality and human health and regulate the release of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide (CO2), oxides of nitrogen and oxides of sulfur.[17] The standards set are established in two phases to stay up to date, with final projections aiming to collectively save Americans $1.7 trillion in fuel costs and reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 6 billion metric tons.[18] Similar to the ambient standards, individuals states may also tighten regulations. For example, California set their own emissions standards through the California Air Resources Board (CARB), and these standards have been adopted by some other states.[19] Emission standards also regulate the amount of pollutants released by heavy industry and for electricity.

The technological standards set by the EPA do not necessarily enforce the usage of specific technologies, but sets a minimum performance levels for different industries. [20] The EPA often encourage technological improvement by setting standards that are unachievable with current technologies. These standards are always set based on the industry's top performers to promote the overall improvement of the industry as a whole.[20]

Impact of Non-governmental organization[edit]

International Organization of Standardization[edit]

The International Organization of Standardization is the institution, which develops a large number of voluntary standards. With 163 member states it has a comprehensive outreach which their standards. The standards set by the ISO were often transmitted into national standards by different nations. About 363.000 companies and organisations worldwide have the ISO 14001 certificate, a standard for an environmental management, created to improve the environmental performance of an organisation and legal aspects as well as reaching environmental aims. Most of the national and international environmental management standards, including the ISO 14000 series. [3][21][22]


Greenpeace is one of the best known non-governmental organisation, which deals with biodiversity and environment. With their activities they have a great global impact on environmental issues. By activities recording special environmental issues they encourage the public attention and enforce governances or companies to adapt / set environmental standards. Their main focus is on forests, the sea, climate change and toxic chemicals. For example, referring to the toxic chemicals they set a standard together with the textile sector. They created the concept 2020, which has the idea to banish all toxic chemicals out of the textile production until 2020.[23][24]


The WWF focus on how to produce the maximum yield in agriculture while conserving biodiversity. They try to educate, protect, reach policy changes and incentives to reach they aim. [25]


Environmental standards in the economy are set through external motivation. First of all companies need to fulfill the environmental law of the countries, in which they are operating. Moreover environmental standards were based on voluntary self-commitment, which means companies implement standards for their business, which exceed the level of the requirements of governmental regulations. If companies set further-reaching standards they try to fulfill the wishes of stakeholders. At the process of setting environmental standards three different stakeholders have the main influence. The first stakeholder, the government, is already mentioned and it is strongest determinate. Followed by the influence of the customers. Nowadays there is an increasing amount of people, wo consider environmental factor to their purchasing decision. The third stakeholder, who force companies to set environmental standards are industrial participants. If companies are part of industrial networks they are forced to fulfill the codes of conduct of this networks. This code of conducts is often set to improve the collective reputation of an industry. Another driving force of industry participants could be a reaction to a competitors action.

The environmental standards set by companies their self can be divided into two dimensions. First the operational environmental policies. This can be the environmental management, audits, controls or technologies. In this dimension the regulations tend to be closely connect with other function areas, e.g. lean production. Furthermore it could be occupied that multinational companies tend to set cross-country harmonised environmental government regulations and reach therefore higher performance level of environmental standards. The second dimension is the message send in advertising and public communications. It´s often criticized that companies focus on the second dimension. To satisfy the stakeholders requirement companies were focused on the public impression of their environmental self-commitment standards. Often the real implementation doesn´t play an important role. A lot of companies settle the responsibility for the implementation in low budget departments. The workers, which were in charge of the standards missing time and financial resources to guaranty a real implementation. Furthermore within the implementation goal conflicts arising. The biggest concern of companies is that the environmental protect is more expansive compared to the gained beneficial effects. But there are a lot of positive cost-benefit-calculation for environmental standards, set by companies their self. It is observed, that companies often set environmental standards after a public crisis. To the criticised nuisances a higher importance is assigned after the crises, to improve the environmental standards were implement after. Sometimes environmental standards were already set by companies to avoid public crises. If the environmental self-commitment standards are effective is controversial. [26][27][28][29]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Pinkau, K. (1998). Environmental Standards: Scientific Foundations and Rational Procedures of Radiological Risk Management. Springer Science & Business Media B.V. pp. XVII–XXXIII, 1–45. ISBN 978-1-4419-5027-7.
  2. ^ "National Environmental Standards". Environment Guide.
  3. ^ a b c "Ausarbeitung Zu Umweltstandards in Kanada, den USA und der EU". Der Deutsche Bundestag. 2016.
  4. ^ Barnett, V. (1997). Setting Environmental Standards: The Statistical Approach to Handling uncertainty and variation. Chapman and Hall. pp. 1–40.
  5. ^ Guttorp, Peter (December 2006). "Setting environmental standards: A statistician's perspective". Environmental Geosciences. 13/4: 261–266.
  6. ^ Martens, Jens (2017). "Die Agenda 2030 Globale Zukunftsziele für nachhaltige Entwicklung". Global Policy Forum: 7–20.
  7. ^ "UN Sustainable Development Goals - can ISO standards help? Yes!". Retrieved 2018-11-12.
  8. ^ "Die Umsetzung der globalen 2030-Agenda für nachhaltige Entwicklung". 2015. Retrieved 2018-11-12.
  9. ^ "Die Agenda 2030 für nachhaltige Entwicklung". Retrieved 2018-11-12.
  10. ^ Stam, Claire (2018-10-29). "Studie: Nur 16 Staaten erfüllen Pariser Klima-Zusagen". Retrieved 2018-11-05.
  11. ^ "Vertrag über die Arbeitsweise der Europäischen Union". Retrieved 2018-11-13.
  12. ^ "Vertrag über die Europäische Union und Vertrag über die Arbeitsweise der Europäischen Union". Retrieved 2018-11-13.
  13. ^ Steigenberger, Markus (2009-03-30). "Internationale und Europäische Umweltpolitik". Retrieved 2018-11-13.
  14. ^ "40 CFR 50.2 - Scope". LII / Legal Information Institute. Retrieved 2017-11-21.
  15. ^ "40 CFR Part 50 - NATIONAL PRIMARY AND SECONDARY AMBIENT AIR QUALITY STANDARDS". LII / Legal Information Institute. Retrieved 2017-11-21.
  16. ^ &Development, Office of Research. "Reference and Equivalent Methods Used to Measure National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) Criteria Air Pollutants - Volume I". cfpub.epa.gov. Retrieved 2017-11-21.
  17. ^ "Wayback Machine" (PDF). 2008-11-20. Retrieved 2017-11-21.
  18. ^ EPA,OAR,OTAQ, US. "Regulations for Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Passenger Cars and Trucks | US EPA". US EPA. Retrieved 2017-11-21.
  19. ^ "How the California Air Resources Board (CARB) Works". HowStuffWorks. 2008-09-12. Retrieved 2017-11-21.
  20. ^ a b EPA,OAR, US. "Setting Emissions Standards Based on Technology Performance | US EPA". US EPA. Retrieved 2017-11-21.
  21. ^ Rondinelli, Dennis A. (Fall 1996). "International Environmental Standards and Corporate Policies: An Integrative Framework". California Management Review. 39.
  22. ^ "ISO 14001 - Umweltmanagementsystemnorm". 2018-11-07. Retrieved 2018-11-12.
  23. ^ Fricke, Kristin Lorey. "Greenpeace International". Retrieved 2018-11-14.
  24. ^ Reimer, Brea (2016). "Biodiversity". Retrieved 2018-11-14.
  25. ^ Deidenbach, Caroline. "Umweltstandards". Retrieved 2018-11-12.
  26. ^ Christmann, Petra (2004). "Multinational Companies and the natural environment: Determinants of global environmental policy standardization". Academy of Management Journal. Vol. 47, No. 5: 747–760.
  27. ^ Levy, Ting (2016). "Global environmental standards with heterogeneous polluters". International Review of Economics and Finance. 43: 482–498.
  28. ^ Müller, Martin (2014). "Realität oder Schein Eine qualitative Untersuchung zur Entkopplungsthese bei der Umsetzung von Umwelt- und Sozialstandards in Unternehmen". zfwu. 15/1: 8–26.
  29. ^ Palmer, Karen (Fall 1995). "Tightening Environmental Standards: The Benefit-Cost or the No-Cost Paradigm?". Journal of Economic Perspectives. 9/4: 119–132.

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