How to Manage Environmental Risk in a Complex Organization: Tips from DIA
[Editorâ€™s note: This is the second in a series of articles based on interviews from experts in the field who will be speaking at the Environmental Leader 2016 Conference in June.]
Environmental management becomes more challenging as organizations grow in complexity, but Denver International Airport – the first US airport to achieve ISO14001 certificationÂ – has found that by using its own “comprehensive environmental management system,” it can address issues such asÂ energy, air quality, greenhouse gas emissions, water quality, waste diversion and environmental planning,Â in an organized and systematic mannerÂ which helps them manage the biggest risksÂ while still being able to keepÂ track of the smaller ones.Â
â€śThe system allows us to be sure that we have considered all of the environmental impacts of our airport and ensure we have policies and procedures to mitigate all risks,â€ť says Scott Morrissey, the airportâ€™s acting senior director for sustainability. Operating an airport the size of DIA – the fifth busiest in the country – has great potential for environmental impacts; the management system allows them to ensure compliance and, beyond that, to work toward continuous improvements, Morrissey says.
The management system itself is a series of documents which are housed on the airport intranet site. All employees are trained in reference to the documents that most impact their specific jobs. The documents consider all the significant environmental risks and outline steps to address them. So when events that impact the environment occur, â€śWeâ€™re not in the position of it being two in the morning and weâ€™re scrambling around to see who to call. We already have the plans in place and itâ€™s just a matter of implementing those plans,â€ť Morrissey says.
Morrissey shared with Environmental Leader a few specifics on how the environmental management system works.
Use aspect impact analysis: As part of DIAâ€™s ISO 14001 certification, the airport conducts an aspect impact analysis every two years. They look at every activity the airport engages in, working with experts to identify which have the most impact. Then, they ensure that through the documents, there are plans in place to address all of the impacts. â€śThe airport has a real risk of impact from spills,â€ť says Morrissey. â€śWe have jet fuel, deicing fluid, a variety of different chemicals at our site.â€ť A spill handbook lays out all the materials with a potential for spills, the places they could occur, and the response to each one.
Get management involved and include training: Even the most environmentally committed employee needs guidance. When employees are being trained at DIA, they donâ€™t need to memorize every document in the management system. But they do need to be trained to understand which of the documents are specific and relevant to their own jobs. They also need to know where to find the relevant documents if and when they need them.
This means that all employees, from management down to hourly workers, understand the steps they must take to meet their goals in terms of both compliance and sustainability. â€śFor example, thereâ€™s a risk that is uniquely related to having restaurants on the premises,â€ť Morrissey points out. â€śSo we have work instructions focused on things like grease trapping.â€ť
Align resources to most significant risks: An important benefit of a system such as this is that it allows Morrissey and his team to take a holistic view across the whole facility – which, at 53 square miles, is really like a small city, he says. â€śThere are so many elements of our work in addition to just the airport functions. We have public works associated with our roadways, commercial elements associated with our retail. The management system itself is our approach to managing that complexity.â€ť
With the holistic view of the whole organization, Morrissey is able to identify areas of the most significant risks and align the most resources to those, without overly focusing on smaller, less important areas.
Create an annual plan, with objectives and targets: Such a plan moves an organization beyond risk and compliance to the ability to be proactive in terms of sustainability initiatives: Another requirement of ISO certification is that the organization does an annual plan that outlines objectives and targets for the upcoming year. The plan not only offers a roadmap for the future, but also allows them to track their progress.
Because the plan works so well, keeping things from falling through the cracks, the organization is able to take its expertise and begin applying it to broader sustainability initiatives.
Realize business benefits: In addition to being better positioned to deal with risk, there are obvious business benefits, as well. DIA has an aircraft deicing fluid collection and recycling component to its sustainability approach, for example. â€śItâ€™s not a specific regulatory requirement, but by virtue of recycling it, we save $2.5 million per year,â€ť Morrissey says.
Scott Morrissey will outline DIAâ€™s environmental management approach in more detail during his presentation at the Environmental Leader 2016 Conference in June.
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