Environmental compliance reporting continues to be increasingly demanding for environmental, health and safety (EHS) professionals, no matter how long they’ve worked in the field. Depending on the number of facilities and chemicals they manage, EHS teams spend hundreds of hours collecting and assessing data for reporting obligations.
EHS professionals must stay up-to-date with differing state and county regulations. Other time-consuming administrative aspects of compliance and reporting also add up, like:
- Reviewing compliance actions
- Managing back-reporting requirements
- Assigning and monitoring tasks across various sites and teams
- Coordinating with facility managers to keep the workflow moving
To accomplish reporting-related tasks productively, organizations must encourage more internal knowledge sharing. Institutional knowledge includes stakeholders’ experiences, data, processes, values and information. This repository of knowledge spans departments and entire enterprises.
For many EHS teams, however, compliance reporting knowledge is often confined to one or two people. In some cases, those people have been responsible for reporting for several years. These stakeholders take on the role of subject matter experts (SMEs) in compliance reporting for their entire organization.
SMEs must share their knowledge of preparing and submitting compliance reports with other teams, like site and operations managers. This collaboration, especially when paired with technology like digitization and process automation, leads to several benefits for EHS teams.
Eliminates data silos
One challenge EHS professionals face is gathering accurate and timely compliance data. Information silos make it difficult for stakeholders to adequately quality access/quality control (QA/QC) data to verify that information is up-to-date, complete and accurate. Poor data quality across multiple facilities and teams opens the door to reporting errors and missed deadlines. In fact, Gartner research found that organizations believe poor data quality generates an average of $15 million per year in losses.
The key to improving data quality? Empowering stakeholders with constant collaboration through knowledge sharing and incorporating technology reaching beyond a one-person reporting operation. A unified data system allows for proactive compliance and strategic decision-making. EHS teams manage elements of non-compliance risk by centrally maintaining and sharing reporting data — both new and historical. Teams can further validate facility-level information, continually monitor threshold planning quantities (TPQs) per location and ensure high data quality throughout every stage of reporting preparation for EPCRA, Tier II and more.
Reduces employee turnover
When companies digitize records and move to a unified data system, information moves across teams more effectively and increases institutional knowledge. Key stakeholders who collaborate and access digital collaboration tools feel empowered and more satisfied with their job and workplace culture.
Digital solutions also relieve an EHS team’s workload, allowing them to focus on other strategic company initiatives. Workplace loyalty and retention improve when workers feel like their company recognizes their input and ideas.
Valued team members are likely to stay with a company and drive workplace productivity. A study from the International Data Corporation (IDC) predicts that by 2024, companies with intelligent and collaborative work environments will see 30% higher productivity and higher revenue per employee compared to their competition.
EHS technology reduces the “friction” that comes from doing manual work and almost inherently increases institutional knowledge and team productivity. Knowledge sharing ensures stakeholders no longer have to piecemeal processes together to get the information they need when they need it.
Supports a company-wide connection
Fewer than 45% of employees see how their ambitions connect to organizational goals. This fact highlights a significant opportunity for business leaders to empower EHS professionals to communicate with different teams across their organizations. EHS teams can educate others on regulatory expectations and explain the laws impacting their day-to-day work. This knowledge sharing helps all stakeholders understand how they can collaboratively move the needle toward a more compliant workplace.
Business leaders should champion educating non-EHS stakeholders on regulatory requirements for environmental compliance and offer opportunities to ask questions. This connection invites them to actively contribute to the solution.
Steps to embrace knowledge sharing
To achieve these benefits for their workforce, transforming how EHS professionals collect and share knowledge, organizations should:
- Analyze the data collection and report compilation process
- Decide which parts of the process teams can automate and standardize
- Build work dashboards with a 360-degree view of the organization
- Implement EHS software that eliminates time-consuming, menial tasks
Challenge EHS professionals to advise on technology decisions to ensure digital tools enhance the employee experience and productivity.
EHS technology requires a considerable investment but ultimately reduces the risks of costly fines and reputational damage by helping EHS teams operate more efficiently to maintain compliance. When organizations combine technology with increased knowledge sharing, they build an informed, confident culture that catalyzes more cross-function between teams.