The bottom line is that we know that our actions today will have direct consequences for the future, and the outcome — whether positive or negative — relies on our efforts. As such, many companies have taken measures to increase their sustainability initiatives.
Sustainability is defined by the United Nations as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”1 To achieve this and keep record of these initiatives, it is beneficial for companies to gather information to show the progress of their sustainability initiatives.
This article identifies best-in-class methods for meeting these initiatives and effectively achieving sustainable business processes, and describes how an automated Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) Management system can provide a solid foundation from which to build your sustainability program.
A platform for sustainable practices
Enterprise Sustainability Management allows a company to identify the item or items that need to be controlled, set objectives that will ultimately reduce ecological impact, and set timeframes for meetings these objectives.
An increasing trend in many organizations is to leverage an enterprise Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) system as a platform for their sustainable business practices.
An automated system to manage sustainability initiatives can help track ecological events, reduce manual data entry and mitigate manual errors, enabling a “roadmap” of progress, and fostering faster response to high-risk events.
The following are the capabilities of a best-in-class Enterprise Sustainability Management solution, and how EHS systems help to manage them:
Define environmental aspects and objectives, then set targets: To successfully manage sustainability initiatives, it is necessary to keep a record of the environmental aspects that are being tracked. Aspects can be any element of the business that has an impact on the environment (e.g. waste water, energy or GHG emissions). An EHS system has the workflow-based platform that will help to identify these aspects and link them to specific areas in the company. With the EHS system’s integrated modules, the company can identify the aspects, set objectives that are consistent with environmental policy and consider environmental impacts as well as laws and regulations, and set targets based on these objectives.
An EHS system also enables a company to create a measurement plan based on the aspect, enabling them to see exactly where they are in terms of meeting their objectives, the location within the company in which the aspect pertains, and the timeline of when the objective is expected to be met. It also normalizes the data — with information coming in varying formats from all across the enterprise, it is important to standardize all data units in order to ensure accuracy and prevent redundancies.
Harmonizing aspects, objectives and targets within an EHS system provides a clear understanding of current ecological impact and gives direction on to how to reach sustainability goals.
Sustainability performance management: Aspects, objectives and targets provide the roadmap for sustainability management; however, a challenge is to collect the disparate sustainability data into a centralized location. The EHS system enables a company to effectively gather data from monitoring initiatives across the enterprise and enter it into the system to analyze and track progress. An EHS system allows a company to input all this data in a central location which provides the visibility needed to find trends in sustainability.
As sustainability performance is tracked, there will be specific events that arise that require you to take action. Sustainability is not just about measuring current performance; it’s about taking steps to improve business practices, processes and policies, fostering higher levels of sustainability. The EHS system is designed to not only manage and track sustainability but to take action to continuously improve overall sustainability within a company.
Take action: For any sustainability metric that is out of scope, or does not meet the requirement set forth by the company, you must take action. For example, a company has set their objectives and tracked the performance of their objectives, but what if an objective was missed? How can sustainability events be linked to continuous improvement projects? This is where the workflow behind EHS systems comes into play. The automated workflow behind an EHS system is beneficial because it provides the framework for taking action on adverse sustainability events with processes such as:
Risk assessment: Measuring risks related to ecological impact helps an organization determine what areas pose the most risk to them and the environment at large. An EHS system’s Risk Assessment tool helps determine risk and its impact, prioritizes risks to include, conducts investigations, and determines how to link risk to sustainability.
Corrective action: Corrective and Preventive Action (CAPA) enables a company to systematically investigate, correct and verify the effectiveness of controls put in place to reduce environmental impacts. With CAPA linked to sustainability management, if any events occur they can be immediately resolved or initiated as a corrective action.
Employee training: As changes are made within the company in the effort to reduce ecological impact, the employees must be trained on these new processes. Employee training solutions provide a simple way to schedule and record training. It tracks employee profiles, schedules training events and manages the identification, responsibilities, authorities, training and certification requirements for each employee.
Don’t miss the message
Sustainability is becoming a centerpiece in today’s corporate policies. Many companies are looking toward using environmental health and safety management systems to track, measure and report on their sustainability initiatives. EHS systems provide the framework and best practices to foster a centralized environment for tracking and measuring sustainability within the company.
The bottom line? “Green” is the new black, and companies must wear it well in order to thrive in business today. Taking these items into consideration, the outcome of companies monitoring their sustainability initiatives will enable them to achieve the goal of functioning with the least impact on the environment — leading to a more profitable future for business while promoting a better tomorrow.
1. Bunting, Bob. "A New Wave of Measurement and Reporting Is on the Way." GreenTechMedia.com. 4 Oct. 2010. Web. 1 Dec 2011.
2. Stokes, Stephen. “Sustainability Innovation Key Initiative Overview.” Gartner, Inc. 22 July 2011.