ISO and Japanese Cities
Shiroi Town is located in the northwestern part of Chiba prefecture, about 30 kilometers from Tokyo. It has an area of about 35 square kilometers, with a population of 50,000. Located close to Tokyo, the town developed as an agricultural region. However, since mid 60s, it experienced rapid urbanization, and has developed as a key industrial and residential area. As a result of the rapid urbanization, the town is currently facing many problems such as deterioration of natural environment, increase in waste generation, air and water pollution, etc. for which measures need to be taken urgently.
Background for the movement toward the acquisition of ISO14001 certificate:
With increased public concerns on global environmental issues such as global warming, ozone depletion, etc., the town recognized the need to take voluntary actions for protecting the living environment for residents. Accordingly, it was decided by the town office that the year 1995 be "a year of the environment", and in 1996, the town declared itself to become "a city of environment". The decisions show the intention of the town office to pursue development of the town in an environmentally sound manner, and enlighten the need to pursue environmental protection and raise public environmental awareness. On Shiroi Town's internet website, it is clearly stated that the town office needs to be aware of the negative impacts to the environment that the activities of the town are bringing about, and that the town office itself needs to improve its environmental behavior. Thus, the acquisition of ISO14001 certificate was targeted as an effective means for the office to achieve this objective.
Stage of acquisition of ISO14001 certificate:
Initiation of preparation for the acquisition: May 1997
Features of activities:
The experience of Shiroi Town is unique in that it is the first local government in Japan to acquire the ISO14001 certificate. There was no precedence that the town office could refer to in its process of ISO acquisition. Instead, the town officials were reported to have consulted officials of the Ministry of International Trade and Industry in May 1997 where they were informed that there was a possibility even for local governments such as Shiroi Town to acquire ISO14001 certificate, and this motivated the town office to work on the acquisition.
The final decision to acquire ISO14001 certificate was made by the town mayor who had taken a strong initiative in the decision making process. In deciding the acquisition, it was recognized that based on the idea of "Think Globally, Act Locally", it was indispensable for the office to take actions in partnership with other stakeholders to overcome environmental issues.
The scope of the application of Shiroi town's environmental management system (EMS) covers all the activities carried out by the town office. The main internal objectives and long-term internal benefits of the acquisition were reported to be: 1) to raise environmental awareness of the staff members; 2) to reduce negative environmental impact of the activities of the town office; and 3) to utilize EMS in daily operations of the city office. On the other hand, external objectives and long-term external benefits were reported to be the enlightenment effect that the action of the town office itself could bring about among other stakeholders in Shiroi, which would lead them to take actions by themselves, and promote better living environment for residents.
As a result of the requisition of the certificate and its implementation, it was reported that, internally, the office experienced: 1) the reduction of negative impact to the environment by its activities (e.g. 19% reduction of paper use in the office, 2% reduction of utility use); 2) raised environmental awareness of staff members; and 3) established the concept of EMS in its daily operations. On the other hand, it was reported that externally, the acquisition of the certificate and its implementation had contributed to: 1) an improved image of the town and 2) increased acquisition of ISO14001 certificate by other stakeholders in the town. It was also reported that the acquisition by the town office raised the concerns and promoted the activities of other local government bodies on ISO14001, and the town office received many inquiries and requests for information about the acquisition process from other local government bodies.
With regard to the information dissemination and communication, it was reported that the town office disseminated information regarding its experience on ISO14001 and EMS to other local governments, other stakeholders in Shiroi as well as outside the town through the Internet and various publications. With regard to the barriers in the process of acquisition, it was reported that since the process was undertaken mainly by staff members of the Environmental Department, there was a significant increase in administrative work that hampered daily operations of the department.