First Comes a Management System, then Comes Software

Michael Tucker
February 14, 2017
With so many regulatory requirements at the local, state, national and international levels, knowing your company's compliance status is a dynamic and complex business challenge. Yet not being able to quickly assess your company's compliance status is a considerable risk, both financial and reputational. In response, an EHS manager may decide they need some system, some software, to help them answer such question.

One of the first steps to adopting an effective environmental management system is understanding how such a system should be constructed. As a user of the International Standard ISO 14001:2015 I can attest that the standard provides a comprehensive and widely accepted road map. Without going into too much detail, ISO 14001 outlines specific recommendations, which include:
  • An organization should identify interested parties and their expectations.

  • An environmental policy should be established which includes a commitment to fulfill all compliance obligations.

  • As an ongoing planning process, the organization should clear identify and list all its environmental compliance obligations, including voluntary commitments. These obligations may form a part of specific objectives, especially for voluntary commitments.
With this firm foundation, an organization is now ready to determine how it will monitor its operations, its processes and its compliance obligations. What will be measured? How often? How will trends be identified and analyzed? Be specific. How do you ensure employees or others working on behalf of an organization are competent and aware of all requirements?

Once you've been able to answer these questions, you have arrived at the point where a software system can a useful tool.

Since the number of specific compliance obligations will obviously vary by organization, the choices likewise vary as to how software solutions should best be evaluated. The complexity of the challenges presented to an organization will help determine the nature of the software system that will best meet its needs. Yet there are some features you might want to consider. Here is a quick list based on my own experience:
  • Keep your compliance obligation list. Assign, schedule and track each one. Ensure there is a method to periodically assess operations wherever there is potential for a compliance breach.

  • Keep up with audits and training: Having a system is not enough to ensure it is being followed. I recommend a combination of frequent inspections and in-depth audits for each compliance process. Make sure your team understands your process and how to implement it in their daily work.

  • Monitor your results. Visualize and report them. Your chosen software must become an integral part of implementation and maintenance of your environmental management system.

  • Use software to support a living, functioning environmental management system that addresses the needs and goals of your organization.
While ISO 14001 provides a roadmap, you may travel different paths to compliance based on your decisions about what is best for your company. Think of your software solution as the tool which will keep you on the right highway. Proper planning and careful monitoring of your progress will provide the greatest opportunity for success.

To learn more about National Grid's approach to compliance management using software, join NAEM for the 2017 EHS & Sustainability Software and Data Management Conference on March 6-8 in Houston.


About the Author

Michael Tucker
Michael Tucker is the EHS & S Principal Program Manager for National Grid US, responsible for establishing, implementing and maintaining the Environmental Management System across all National Grid operations in Northeastern United States. The National Grid US Environmental Management System is registered to be in conformance with International Standard ISO 14001:2015.

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