Printech Archive, February, 2000
Re: Effective compliance assistance tools

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From: Kevin Dick (
Date: Fri Feb 18 2000 - 13:50:54 CST


It's important to place compliance assistance tools in perspective. A
screwdriver may be a good tool for one job, a hammer for another.
one is any good if the user doesn't know what's broken or what they're
trying to fix, or where the screwdriver or hammer is located.
I don't think it's possible to decide which is better overall.

I think the context in which tools are provided and used is perhaps more
important. Compliance and pollution prevention are processes of
improvement. Our program has found that relationships are established
businesses over time and that the businesses typically address different
compliance or P2 issues over time. Therefore having a place to call or
someone to work with on-site is important. We've found seminars and
newsletters to be very effective as well. All these components work
together. Businesses need to have confidence in the source of the tool.
You probably wouldn't trust a tool very much that you bought at the 99
cent store. Reputation of the source is important.

During each type of contact we have with business we provide information and
in most cases compliance assistance tools. We find that typically tools are
most effective if they aren't preachy, thou shalt, or threatening of other
consequences. These turn business people off. The best materials are to
the point, not to much information about regulations they don't need to
know, but what they need to do, or should consider doing, and how to do it.

The best tools are tailored to the businesses they are provided to. This
means state and local requirements are addressed and appropriate contacts
included. Businesses need to know where to go, so phone numbers, websites,
etc of vendors or additional sources of information are included. The
suggestions provided need to work, be proven, and cost-effective.

The most effective tools are ones that are used by and motivate businesses
to improve their operations. Businesses respond when they believe the tools
or information provided are designed with their best iterests in mind.
Again the source reputation or that of the program or person delivering the
information is very important. Businesses are in business to provide a
product or service. Too many materials are designed with the perspective
that the business focus is protecting the environment.

It's easier to identify tools that I don't think are very good.

Interesting information which I don't consider to be useful tools include
demographics and enforcement statistices by EPA Region, compliance manuals
that include the history of RCRA or CAA legislation,
huge studies that evaluate alternative product formulations and provide only
chemical characteristics of the products and not product names a business
can identify.

Some folks seem to really like teleconferences, especially at the national
level. I don't. The conferences can't be at a good time in every time
zone, and the marketing and logistics can't be justified for the low
turn-outs we've had at teleconferences vs. our training seminars. We find
that few people respond with calls or faxes of questions and that the
information may not be targeted to the concerns of our businesses. I'd much
rather get videos we can loan.

Some of my thoughts, right or wrong,

Kevin Dick
Business Environmental Program
Nevada SBDC

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