The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire was the deadliest industrial disaster in the history of the city of New York. One hundred and forty six people died and many more were injured, smoke-affected or left without mothers, sisters, daughters and friends. Following this tragedy, worker’s unions and the public protested, resulting in changes to legislation, so that workers were better protected. You can view a ten minute documentary about the disaster here: Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire – Race to the Bottom (YouTube video). Be aware that this video has some graphic footage and may be blocked by Google Safe Sites. Following this, and other threats to families and communities, companies began to consider social issues, rather than just economic issues in their annual reports. However, despite the reforms, scenarios such as this continue to be played out in developing countries, such as Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, China and Malaysia. In Australia, we now have businesses that consider the triple bottom line – economics, social and environmental performance.
The reforms are an example of social justice, but what about environmental justice? Who speaks for the animals threatened by housing developments, the plants destroyed by roads and freeways and the multitude of marine organisms destroyed by pollution at the Great Barrier Reef? There are various regulatory frameworks that proponents of developments and businesses must abide by, such as mandatory planning and building permits and the requirement to submit an Environmental Impact Statement, following an Environmental Impact Assessment. The Environmental Protection Authority is responsible for monitoring the emissions to air, as well as noise, dust and odour. Local Water Authorities are responsible for emissions to waterways and the local, state and federal government may issue approval for projects, depending on the scale of the development.
Your task is to imagine you are an environmental consultant, contracted to a clothing company who produce denim products. In the mail you will receive a folder that outlines the life cycle analysis of a pair of jeans. This folder provides information about the raw materials, water and energy required to plant, grow, harvest and refine the cotton and then spin, dye, weave and sew the cotton into articles of clothing. Other inputs include energy for packaging and transport as well as the energy needed to maintain the farm, factory and retail outlet. All this energy results in greenhouse gas emissions as well as the other wastes from the production, transport and distribution processes. Watch Life Cycle of Jackets and Jeans on YouTube.
You are required to produce an Environmental Management Plan that includes the following details:
- Hazard Identification (list at least three hazards in the factory and how they might be prevented. For example, fire, gas leaks or chemical spills)
- Risk Assessment (Decide if these hazards are high or low probability and high or low severity and how they can be treated if they occur)
- Audit – Life Cycle Analysis (Outline the inputs how these can be provided more sustainably and then outline the outputs, including how wastes can be minimized.)
- More information about the life cycle of a pair of jeans – Bio Intelligence Service
- Plan – Devise a plan to reduce inputs and outputs to the system.
- How will the plan be implemented and monitored?