EHS data management is the foundation upon which EHS performance is built. If EHS data is not managed properly, EHS software will not deliver the expected benefits. Addressing EHS data management challenges is a complex problem, but the complexity is alleviated by the fact that many corporate leaders have already tackled the problem and have valuable lessons to share.
The National Association for Environmental Management’s latest research on Approaches to EHS&S Data Management includes case studies on global companies from various industries, and lessons that are universal to all organizations.
Here’s a preview of the lessons learned, which are necessary for you to overcome EHS data management challenges.
1) EHS Data Management is a Journey, Not a Destination
To successfully address challenges of EHS data management, start by adopting the right mindset. EHS data management is a journey characterized by continuous improvement. The objective should be to improve EHS performance on an on-going basis by always seeking better ways to organize data, especially because product offerings, processes, best practices and market conditions keep evolving.
2) Success Will Also Be Determined by Other Functions
EHS data management will only improve if you look beyond the EHS function. While in most cases the EHS function will lead the effort, it’s important to involve, and recognize the input, of IT and Operations, and possibly other functions also (HR, Finances, Corporate, etc.). Cooperation is needed because an EHS data management system leverages data from other systems, and because EHS performance should be part of the company culture and affect everyone.
3) EHS Data Management is Only as Good as People and Processes
The previous section was about looking beyond the “EHS” part of “EHS Data Management”. This section is about looking beyond the “Data” part. To improve EHS data management, make sure that your processes are already well-defined, including common definitions and terminologies. Also, be sure to equip users of the EHS data with the required knowledge, skills and capabilities.
4) Expect Setbacks and Bumps in the Road
As mentioned, EHS data management is a journey of continuous improvement. Like any such journey, things are never perfect and setbacks happen. Progress is not linear and constant. It’s important to always move forward, and to look at the cumulative progress and the overall direction you’re going in. As the NAEM report says, sometimes changes “may take you two steps forward, one step back”.
5) More Data Creates More Opportunities for Improvement
Having more data means having more information, including greater visibility on incidents, process safety issues, environmental compliance gaps, etc. More data creates more work and increases the level of difficulty of EHS tasks. But more data also creates more opportunities for improvement. Therefore, see the increase in work as an increase in the positive contribution that you will make by unlocking value through the insights gained from the additional data.
To learn more about other lessons, and case studies from leading companies, download the complimentary NAEM report on Approaches to EHS&S Data Management