- The Washington Times - Monday, April 17, 2000

In the beginning, American companies were pretty much on their own when it came to observing Earth Day, which celebrates its 30th birthday next week.
But that changed 10 years ago when the Global Environmental Management Initiative (www.gemi.org) was established to help members come up with ways to make the observance more meaningful.
"Companies began thinking of their environmental impact with the first Earth Day in 1970," said Steve Hellem, GEMI's executive director. "Our mission is to foster environmental, health and safety excellence through the sharing of tools and information."
Established in 1990 by the Business Round Table (www.brt.org), the D.C.-based group is a nonprofit organization made up of 35 major companies, including Procter & Gamble, Motorola, Anheuser-Busch, Georgia Pacific and Coca-Cola.
The Web site gives the group a way to distribute information developed by its members. In addition to being able to quickly provide documents and studies, the Web site allows the group to create "living documents" that can be adapted, updated and changed as new information and processes arise.
"Through the Internet, we are in a better position to reach a larger global audience, provide greater information, link to additional resources, update information with progress reports and new case statements," Mr. Hellem said.
GEMI members work together to identify areas where they can make a difference. Each member organization pays yearly dues of $20,000 to the nonprofit group that acts as moderator, organizer, facilitator and distributor of the issue papers and tools created.
The information that GEMI members develop for the Web site is then provided, free of charge, to any other business or individual regardless of whether they are a member organization.
Examples of recent issues tackled by GEMI members include the reports "Fostering Environmental Prosperity; Multinationals in Developing Countries" chaired by the Anheuser Bush Co. and "Environmental Improvement Through Business Incentives" led by Georgia Pacific.
"What makes us unique to other organizations is that we are totally member-driven and it is truly a sweat equity group in that the members identify the issues and create the solutions," Mr. Hellem said.
"Members then take the information back to their companies and see how it affects their bottom line. At the end of the day, the original documents and tools change and grow and the Web site solution allows for their evolution."
"Our goal is to reach all companies with the business-to-business help these leadership groups can provide," Mr. Hellem said. "The Internet and the development of Web sites to distribute this information has become a prime directive for this organization."
The main GEMI Web site now links to the GEMI Climate Change Web site www.businessandclimate.org), the first cyber-stop created to distribute information to companies. The tool will help users focus on business opportunities and risks as they relate to concerns about global climate changes.
ThermoRetec Inc. of New Haven, Conn., was the lead on the design and development of this working document and Web site.
"It was our members that requested the Web-based approach to providing this information," said Mary Beth Parker, GEMI program director. "And what we are finding is that the movement inside traditional environmental, strategic and technology groups are also moving toward a more Web-based solution."
Companies can look forward to additional Web sites created to meet the concerns of GEMI members.
"One that we are working on now for a summer release is information management systems, an initiative being led by the Anheuser Bush Company," Ms. Parker said. "The Web site developed as a result of this project will focus on information management needs and how companies can address them through Internet or Extranet solutions."
Have an interesting site? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at the Business Browser, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send e-mail ([email protected]).


Site address: www.gemi.org
Recommended user group: All companies and persons interested in environmental, health and safety issues.
What's to like? The GEMI sites are designed to provide information in a very simple and easy-to-use setting. A business with even the slowest Internet connection and basic hardware should be able to easily access its pages. The main GEMI site does contain a Members Only section, but in general the majority of information is available free of charge to any user.
Site highlights include Benchmarking Surveys on important EHS topics. After a period of one year, all GEMI benchmarking reports are available to the public. Users of the site can also browse and purchase a number of GEMI publications and review a list of GEMI members, including information on their environmental initiatives.
What's not to like? Contrary to the site's ease of use, I found it a bit bland and might not serve to entice a new visitor to further explore the group's offerings. I also noticed a few misspelled words on the front page.
Plenty of links to go around: The GEMI Web site offers visitors the ability to link to member's home pages like:
The Southern Co., (www.southernco.com), a leading producer of electricity in the U.S., provides an interesting Web site for any one concerned with electrical power and the environment. Interesting site features include an article on Zero Emission Coal, a study to create emission-free power. Educators and students alike will appreciate the Learning Power Home Page.
Lockheed Martin Corp.,'s (www.lmco.com) site not only provides company information, it also contains a photo and video gallery containing interesting images of planes, helicopters and flight.

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