The weekly Verdigris blog by Laurel Brunner
Awards are an excellent way of communicating a company’s prowess to customers and prospects. They can be used to celebrate business performance and product quality, and because they are pretty simple to understand, they are a convenient tool for marketers to use. But awards have to be rigorous to have any meaning. And their metrics need to be clearly defined and communicated.
So what makes an environmental award worth having? Is it compliance to standards such as ISO 14001 (Environmental management systems) and ISO 50001 (Energy management) or the Nordic Swan and Blaue Engel ecolabels? Or should it be compliance, plus something more demanding?
Compliance is hard enough and it’s a useful guide on its own. But if you are judging a series of entries for an environmental award, compliance alone is not enough. If all the entries comply to international standards, you need something more on which to base a decision. Defining the judging criteria and metrics in advance gives prospective entrants something specific to get their teeth into and the specifics are also an aid to awards judges. Judges must sift through masses of material searching for that distinctive, and often elusive, differentiating nugget, so guidance is extremely valuable.
Measuring and tracking environmental performance improvements is one way to achieve this, but you must have the evidence to support your claims that waste handling and energy usage have actually gone down. Consider including process control improvements, such as error rates or remakes, because efficiency and environmental impact management go hand in hand.
Process control is often overlooked as part of environmental performance evaluation, because it doesn’t appear to be directly related to the environment. But environmental management is about more than pollution control and any procedural improvements that help tighten up product supply chains have a positive effect on environmental impact. They cut out processes and improve efficiency.The potential for errors goes done if processes are tight. Pointless waste is the worst kind, because it shouldn’t get produced in the first place.
Evaluating environmental performance whether you are going for an industry award or not, comes down to having accurate data. The data is important not just for environmental management, but for quality control and business management in general. With the exception of newspapers, printing and publishing companies are not particularly famous for their reliance on data or indeed process efficiency. However process management working in concert with environmental management is vital for future planning.
When it comes to environmental awards submissions, well presented data that at least tracks emissions and waste over time, can make the difference. Aligned to a coherent environmental policy and details of plans for further environmental impact reduction, data provides evidence that an environmental improvement is indeed underway. Otherwise it’s just so much hot air and wasted emissions.
– Laurel Brunner