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Despite challenging economic circumstances, environmental compliance is a business obligation that cannot be ignored.  However, regulatory compliance is not the only aspect of environmental management that should be considered.  Careful environmental management is a growing concern among consumers and the public image of a company is greatly influenced by how the company handles its environmental responsibilities.  In virtually all organizations, there are also opportunities to improve efficiency by analyzing and streamlining environmental information management.  One possibility for addressing all of these issues and adding value to the company is through the implementation of an EH&S management information system (EMIS).

Benefits of EMIS

Efficiently maintaining environmental compliance is not possible without developing a careful process to ensure that all permit requirements are met.  Manual methods that rely on informal paper processes can result in duplication of tasks and inconsistencies in reporting, as well as a considerable margin for error.  Countless labor hours are wasted trying to maintain records of hundreds of tasks.  This overwhelming load cannot be effectively managed by any single individual and is often too costly to spread among several staff.  Increasing the number of staff involved is costly and adds to the complexity of the system, raising the likelihood of compliance demonstration difficulties. 

While manual compliance management is expensive and can reduce levels of compliance, implementation of a technology-based EMIS can help ensure that all environmental compliance requirements are met in the most cost-effective way.  An EMIS provides the means to centralize control of all compliance tasks while eliminating the burden and costs of maintaining countless spreadsheets that can easily be overlooked, as well as the other negative impacts of a distributed system.  An EMIS will considerably reduce the time spent gathering the data required to demonstrate compliance while providing greater accuracy through validation of data inputs. 

Reporting efficiency is improved through the utilization of a single, centralized system. 
Considerable savings can be realized by submitting required information electronically rather than providing paper reports, eliminating paper costs and contributing to a positive influence on the public perception of the company’s approach toward the environment.
Financial gains that result from an EMIS are not the only available benefits that a company can realize.  Risk is reduced through access to data that can be relied upon for accuracy and availability.  The EMIS provides a way to look at historical information and to make projections regarding the future so that measures can be taken to better deal with potential risks.  Communication channels also benefit from the EMIS by ensuring that the appropriate staff receives the notifications that are critical to their job functions, enabling them to be more productive and have easier access to the information they need, when they need it.  Improved channels of communication also lead to more efficient use of the company’s invaluable asset of its collective knowledge.  Ensuring that all of the right information gets to the right person at the right time is an enormous benefit.  It increases productivity and creates a better working environment by eliminating the chaos associated with an unmanaged knowledge base.

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, a company must be profitable and the functions of the environmental program must contribute to that  profitability.  Without an EMIS in place to accurately gather and report information, measuring such value is not possible.  The EMIS gives business managers the tools and information needed to analyze the impact that environmental programs have on the company’s financials.  By creating goals that can be tracked and demonstrated through the EMIS, managers have an observable and concrete basis to make decisions and identify areas for improvement.

An EMIS can deliver tremendous benefits to a company, both tangible and intangible.  The company can save money as the result of a more efficient process that reduces the amount of hours required to perform tasks that can be automated.  Staff will be more efficient as they are freed from performing routine duties and allowed to focus on the critical aspects of their job functions.  The image of the company will be enhanced by demonstrating a commitment to increasing its compliance with environmental regulations as well as taking steps to identify and mitigate potential risks.  Corporate knowledge will be effectively managed and the disorder associated with a decentralized system will be molded into an efficient, effective, and accurate information system.