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ISO and Japanese Cities
The ISO 14001 Initiative of Gifu Prefecture


General Description:

Gifu prefecture is located in central Japan and is one of the few prefectures in Japan without a coastline. It has an area of about 10,600 square kilometers, with a population of about 2,120,000. About 80 percent of the land is forest area, and it has plains in its south. However, due to rapid urbanization, it has experienced various environmental problems such as air pollution caused by automobile exhaust emissions, water pollution caused by run-off and drainage, and increased waste generation from businesses and households. Furthermore, its farming areas have also faced lowered capacities for environmental protection due to high depopulation.

Background for the movement toward the acquisition of ISO14001 certificate:

In facing various environmental issues mentioned above, there has been growing concern by the public for environmental amenities, as well as recognition by the prefectural government for the need to take immediate actions against environmental issues not only from the local perspective, but also from global perspectives.

The environmental protection activities of Gifu Prefecture are featured in the initiative called, "Love Earth Gifu Initiative" which was introduced in 1990. It is a framework of environmental activities carried out by the prefectural government, and it is clearly stated on an official report that the objective of the initiative is to promote other stakeholders in the prefecture to take actions in reducing negative impacts on the environment, and the prefectural government itself taking lead in carrying out environmental activities.

In order to better pursue the Love Earth Gifu Initiative, in 1996, the prefectural government established "Gifu Agenda 21", which consists of concrete implementation plans with targeted quantitative goals for the prefectural government, businesses, and households, in their activities for environmental protection.

Furthermore, in 1998, in facing an increased need for environmental issues to be tackled in partnership with the government, businesses and citizens, the prefectural office decided to acquire the ISO 14001 certificate by recognizing the need to reduce negative environmental impacts of its activities as a major consumer, as well as aiming at promoting similar activities among other stakeholders in the prefecture. Thus, the decision to acquire ISO14001 was decided and the "New Love Earth Gifu Initiative" was introduced by expanding the original Initiative to include ISO14001.

Stage of acquisition of ISO14001 certificate:

Initiation of preparation for the acquisition: November 1998
Acquisition of certificate: July 1999

Features of activities:

The final decision to acquire ISO14001 certificate was made by the Prefectural Governor, and it was reported that there was no objection in the decision making process since the decision was strongly endorsed by all involved. No pressure was also reported from the citizens groups to the prefectural office to defer acquisition. Once the decision was made, significant part of the task was carried out by the Environmental Policy Division of the Department of Health, Welfare and Environment, which functioned as a secretariat for the acquisition process. The EMS was established by the prefectural office itself, without having an outside consultant, but experts were invited to the office to give training sessions for staff members. In the process of acquisition, staff members who are involved in the acquisition process visited several other local governmental offices (Saitama prefecture, Osaka prefecture, etc.) in order to get information regarding the acquisition and implementation process of the ISO14001.

The scope of the application of EMS is all activities carried out by the prefectural 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 by acquiring certificate from a third organization; 2) to carry out activities of the prefectural office in an environmentally sound and internationally recognized manner; 3) to reduce the operational costs by carrying out its activities in more efficient manner. On the other hand, external objectives and long-term external benefits were reported to be: 1) to promote environmental activities in the prefecture; 2) to promote city, town, and village offices and businesses in the prefecture to acquire ISO certification by the enlightened effect of the prefectural office's action; 3) to increase accountability of operations by the prefectural office; and 4) to improve the eco-friendly image of the prefectural office.

As a result of the requisition of the certificate and its implementation, it was reported that, internally, the office experienced: 1) reduced negative environmental impact; 2) reduced operational costs; and 3) accumulation of know-how related to EMS. On the other hand, it was reported that externally, the acquisition of the certificate and its implementation had contributed to: 1) increased acquisition of ISO14001 certificate by city, town, and village office as well as businesses in a prefecture. However, it should be noted that it was reported that the acquisition of the certificate had not effected other policies of the prefectural government itself.

With regard to the information dissemination and communication, it was reported that the prefectural office has presented its environmental plan and manual for environmental management through the Internet. In addition, it released the manual of environmental management, rules of environmental management and other related documents through a Local Area Network (LAN) which is accessible by city, town and village offices in the prefecture. Seminars and consultation services regarding the acquisition and implementation of ISO14001 have been organized in order to disseminate the experience of the prefectural office. With regard to the barriers in the process of acquisition, it was reported that due to the tight financial situation as well as the pressure for administrative reform which requires significant amount of work, the office experienced difficulties in assigning staff members to work exclusively on the acquisition and implementation of ISO14001.

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Contact: Hari Srinivas - hsrinivas@gdrc.org