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Make Stewardship EPA’s Unifying Theme

That’s what EPA's independent National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology (NACEPT) urged in its recent report:  “EPA should reframe its mission with stewardship as the unifying theme and ethic and EPA should strive to become the world's premier stewardship model and catalyst.”  NACEPT recommends that EPA focus all of its tools – strong regulatory programs, grants, voluntary partnerships and information programs – in this direction.

The report says that the success of EPA's stewardship efforts will be determined by the extent to which other institutions and individuals become stewards, and adds that working towards sustainability through environmental stewardship and collaboration is everyone's business. Environmental stewardship is the responsibility for environmental quality shared by all those whose actions affect the environment. 

NACEPT advises, consults with and makes recommendations to the EPA Administrator on a broad range of environmental policy, technology and management issues. The Council is a balanced panel of representatives from academia, business and industry, non-governmental organizations, and state, local, and tribal governments. 

For the full report, Everyone's Business: Working Towards Sustainability Through Environmental Stewardship and Collaboration, March 2008, copy and paste this link into your browser: https://www.epa.gov/ocem/nacept/reports/pdf/2008-0328-everyones-business-final.pdf 

[The remainder of this article uses the NACEPT memo transmitting the report to Administrator Johnson.]

“NACEPT built on EPA’s Innovation Action Council’s November 2005 report, Everyday Choices: Opportunities for Environmental Stewardship, which defines stewardship
as ‘taking responsibility for our choices’.   Stewardship [for NACEPT] is ‘a systemic approach to addressing the challenge of sustainability—economic, environmental and social.’  Strong regulatory programs are key tools in fostering responsibility, especially when they are integrated with the full policy toolbox that also includes grants, voluntary partnerships, and information programs. To deliver on this challenge, EPA must invest in building the skills and competencies necessary for stewardship and drive stewardship deep into its organizational culture.

The concept of stewardship is a logical—and timely—step in EPA’s ongoing evolution. It is not a new idea. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969 provides the direction and underlying authority to implement our recommendations.  We commend EPA for already doing much to advance stewardship but, as we state in our report, there is much more to do.

Although EPA has a critical role to play in stewardship, its role is only one piece of the overall systemic solution. The success of EPA’s stewardship efforts will be determined by the extent to which other institutions and individuals become stewards. Collaborative governance, which engages all stakeholders in the design and direction of environmental policy, is a key strategy toward that end.  Working towards sustainability through environmental stewardship and collaboration is indeed everyone’s business.

Fully embracing environmental stewardship will not be easy for EPA or the rest of society, but it is one of the best ways to ensure future prosperity. Implementing the full scope of our recommendations will require continuing EPA management attention and a long-term, sustained investment. Paradigm shifts take time and patience as well as strategic implementation. EPA’s successful implementation of pollution prevention illustrates how this can be accomplished…

Every day individuals and institutions make a myriad of choices that affect the environment for better or worse. Interest in sustainability and environmental
stewardship is surging throughout the country and the world. Now is the time for
EPA to recast its role to provide the leadership needed for society to reach the
next level of environmental quality.

With EPA at the forefront, environmental stewardship that is pursued in a vigorously
collaborative manner should be everyone’s business. Informed actions by millions of individuals and institutions can truly put us on the path to sustainability.  This is the Council’s vision and its hope for the future.”

Next Steps  -- The Innovation Action Council discussed NACEPT’s Everyone’s Business report at its April 30, 2008 meeting.   Several members and staff spoke about coordinating internal discussions within their offices and regions about NACEPT’s recommendations and how they might be implemented.

Pages 2 – 5 list recommendations, findings and immediate steps @ [https://www.epa.gov/ocem/nacept/reports/pdf/2008-0328-everyones-business-final.pdf].

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