EHS Data Management: The Foundation of “Beyond Compliance”

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Much has been written in recent years about the need for manufacturers and other companies to move beyond merely meeting the requirements of environmental and occupational safety regulators and progress to a level of environmental, health and safety (EHS) program management commonly referred to as “beyond compliance.”  And to be sure, there are benefits both tangible and intangible in attaining this level of proactive and truly integrated EHS management.

Tangible environmental benefits of beyond compliance level of EHS performance include increased efficiencies like identifying ways to use and allocate resources more effectively as well as cost savings associated with being able to identify chemicals and other production materials that have a lower cost of use through reduced environmental impact.  From a health and safety perspective, beyond compliance performance has the potential to reduce costs by promoting a safer workplace environment—one that realizes fewer lost-time injuries.

Intangible benefits include the good will—the “soft profit”—associated with being able to credibly promote one’s company as a responsible steward to the environment and, in a larger sense, an all-around solid corporate citizen.   

As a natural extension of a corporate culture driven by continuous improvement, beyond compliance EHS program performance is clearly a desirable developmental goal for any corporate EHS director.

But how is it that an organization achieves this seemingly lofty goal of an EHS management program that functions at a level beyond mere regulatory compliance?  While there are a range of organizational and cultural considerations involved, one characteristic of organizations that have achieved this higher level of EHS management functionality is the utilization of a discreet system for managing EHS program data.

As a point of fact, a recent study by the National Association of Environmental Management (NAEM) indicated that investment in data management systems is one of the fastest growing areas of EHS management spending by industry.

And why are EHS data management systems so essential to forward-thinking, continuously improving companies intent on performing in a beyond compliance mode?  Simply, it’s because their attributes can be substantial.  The first of these is the increased efficiency that data management systems bring to the overall EHS program.  In fact, it is this increased efficiency that serves to form the very foundation for many beyond compliance initiatives.

Secondly, there is a measure of increased integrity instilled in an organization’s EHS management program.  This integrity, as characterized by increased program discipline and timeliness, instills confidence in the company’s EHS program on the part of all stakeholders in the company and also—most importantly—on the part of government regulators.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has in fact formally endorsed the use of environmental data management systems as a tool for effective compliance management.

Also, one of the key aspects of a well-developed EHS data management system is the increased accountability inherent in using a system of this nature.  This increased accountability serves not only to bolster confidence in a company’s EHS management system, but it also applies to stakeholders at all levels:  operations level users are managed and held accountable for accomplishing the day-to-day EHS program tasks, while EHS program administrators are able to communicate program status and, more importantly, program successes to executive management.  This latter function, of course, serves to further bolster confidence in not only the integrity of the EHS program as a whole, but also increases confidence on the part of executive management in those administering the program.

In the final analysis, while EHS data management systems are essential to achieving beyond compliance program performance, their inherent qualities serve to improve any level of EHS management program effort.

For additional information about EHS data management systems, please contact Mike Hessling at