On June 4, 1999, The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Mexico’s Secretaria de Medio Ambiente, Recursos Naturales y Pesca (SEMARNAP), the Border Environment Cooperation Commission (BECC/COCEF) and the US-Mexico Chamber of Commerce (USMCOC or “the Chamber”) signed an historic public/private sector agreement called the “Seven Principles of Environmental Stewardship for the 21st Century” (“the 7 Principles”). Subsequently, 10 more industry and environmental associations signed the 7 Principles at the invitation of USMCOC. This proposal forges a strategic alliance and approach to implement the 7 Principles along the US/Mexico border and in both countries.

Conceptually, the principles are a natural extension of sustainable development activities embraced by numerous public, private sector and NGO stakeholders in the border region and are consistent with the spirit of the Border XXI Program. The 7 Principles serve as focal point to jointly plan the “heavy lifting” stage of implementing specific actions, mechanisms and performance indicators to translate policies into credible sustainable development practices. Importantly, they represent private sector leadership to invite key stakeholder organizations to form a partnerships and strategies to carry them out.

The Foundation’s and the Chamber’s approach encompasses several strategies; “partnering”, “capacity building”, “sustaining institutionalization”, “training”, “decentralization”, “interagency cooperation” and “cross-border exchanges”. This approach forges a strong and committed partnership of involved parties, including private sector associations and companies, public sector agencies, academia and NGOs to jointly develop and recommend a broad strategy to implement the 7 Principles.

The US-Mexico Cultural and Educational Foundation (USMCEF or the “Foundation”), a 501 (c) (3), is leading the effort, with support of its sister organization, the US-Mexico Chamber of Commerce (USMCOC). Several individuals and institutions are also participating as “partners and experts” in this planning exercise. Those participating in this grant are: Dr. Carlos Rincon, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF); Dr. Paul Ganster of San Diego State University; Edy Cecil of the US Environmental Training Institute (USETI)/Concurrent Technologies Corporation (CTC); the National Hispanic Environmental Council; Eric Gustafson, Applied Sustainability of Mexico; Operation Respond (hazardous waste); and the Gamboa International Corporation.

In additional support of the program various consultations are held with individuals and organizations such as: Bernardo Escudero, current Chair of the Consejo Nacional de la Industria Maquiladora and Environmental Manager for Delphi Automotive in Cd. Juarez, Mexico, who will serve on the Advisory Council, and help the team to involve the incoming Chair of the Consejo. USMCOC will also invite the Border Trade Alliance (BTA) and other business organizations to participate. This non-governmental/public-private sector alliance represents substantial expertise in policy, law, regulations, standards, business, economics, environmental management systems (EMS), trade, manufacturing, public participation, and training, all of which are essential to the complex interdisciplinary issues at hand. The partners have solid experience with many border stakeholders, and will work closely to develop effective two-way communication, through intensive dialogue and feedback. The effort leverages existing governmental and NGO projects, programs, policies, tools and techniques, and is structured to develop consensus on specific and innovative measures to implement the 7 Principles.

Measures that are considered include clarifying guidelines, best practices, performance indicators, incentives, improved public reporting methods and policies, verification tools, and other effective ways to bolster credibility. Among references for guidance are: North America’s Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) Guidance Document for Improving Environmental Performance and Compliance: Ten Elements of Effective Environmental Management Systems. The CERES standards and the Chemical Industry’s CARE program, and PROFEPA’s “Industria Limpia” program also serves as touchstones. Regardless of the type of program, policy, tool, incentive or method used, the objective is to target four (4) core values: (1) compliance, (2) pollution prevention, (3) energy efficiency and (4) improved overall performance.

The Foundation is conducting two “stakeholder outreach” conferences that will provide stakeholders with an opportunity to identify a range of tools and incentives for the regulated community to improve environmental performance, with regard to the 7 Principles and the CEC Guidelines. Besides investigating performance indicators, the effort considers possible joint recognition approaches, e.g., state-to-state, federal-to-state, and country-to-country collaboration in nominating and selecting “star” performers. (Four US states have indicated interest in a binational recognition program). The Foundation considers various options to fully implement the stakeholders’ recommendations, including institutional arrangements that can thrive amid a mosaic of stakeholder interests; provide independent verification and recognition; and maintain solid stakeholder support. This extends the concept of stakeholder convergence on performance indicators. To sustain the effort, an institutional mechanism is used to support communications and outreach, training, research, performance and compliance monitoring, independent verification and recognition, and innovative or experimental projects (e.g., with supply chain mentoring).

Under the program Stakeholders are identified, contacted and documented through the project partners’ networks, and those of the EPA, SEMARNAP, BECC, North American Development Bank (NADBank), International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC), CEC, NGOs, e.g., the Pan American Health Organization and other health/environmental groups, the North American Institute, binational federal, state and local governmental agencies, elected officials, non-profits, universities, institutes, Good Neighbor Environmental Board, and many others. Team partners represent a full range of legal, business, research, academic, technical, and advocacy perspectives, which will be an asset in the task of assembling background information, stakeholder participants, and potential tools for the effort. The Foundation continues its on going efforts to involve additional maquiladoras, trade, and environmental associations, with the help of its partners, plus will actively work to involve NGOs and other pubic-private stakeholders throughout the project.

During the planning phase for the stakeholder meetings, the Team jointly and individually contacts stakeholder organizations to encourage involvement, gather input on existing tools and performance indicators, identify issues and discuss options for implementing the 7 Principles. Initially, two regional workshops are planned. The first, unveils the effort and broadly notifies and involves stakeholders. The second, builds-on and refines the approach in the first workshop. Both employ a consensus-centered process for developing implementation strategies for the 7 Principles. Carefully designed, facilitated and recorded breakout sessions will each consider one of the 7 Principles in order to identify specific actions associated with each principle. Specific questions targeted to explore issues, options and recommendations related to each of the 7 Principles will be developed for use in the breakout session. Session formats will alternate between the general (in plenary) to the specifics (in breakouts), and then back to plenary for the whole group to review and affirm (or modify) the results of the workgroups’ deliberations. Ground rules for fair communication will be written, explained and facilitated. An Advisory Council will be selected from among session participants to champion each of the Principles’ recommendations and steer ongoing institutionalization efforts, with support from the Project staff. All stakeholders will stay involved, informed and central to the process. Once the workshops have been held, preliminary findings will be presented to the Border Congressional Caucus at the United States Capitol during the Chamber’s Fifth Annual Border Issues Conference.