With a series of significant changes over the last two years, from a global pandemic to an accelerating climate crisis, corporate sustainability has become increasingly important across almost every industry. As talks around the climate crisis continue to ensue, businesses will have to act appropriately in adopting sustainability strategies to keep up with the global competition. A recent survey showed that 62% of executives consider a sustainability strategy necessary to remain competitive in today’s market, and another 22% think it will be in the future. With a sustainability strategy in place, businesses can foster and promote company longevity through transparency of operations and overall commitment to a healthier planet.
Leading the charge in sustainability is environmental compliance. The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) was established in 1986, triggered in 1984 by a chemical gas explosion that claimed 3,787 lives. Under EPCRA regulations, companies that store chemicals above certain threshold quantities must file an annual Tier II report, which details chemical practices in a specific facility. This information is then given to local emergency response agencies to help them plan for chemical emergencies and, essentially, reduce the likelihood of disasters originating from extremely hazardous chemicals. Simply put, environmental compliance and regulations help companies reduce the most significant risk to the natural environment and human health, and as sustainability efforts evolve, so will compliance standards. Let’s dive into the evolving landscape of sustainability and environmental compliance, as well as the role data plays.
Evolution of Sustainability Efforts and Environmental Compliance
While the pandemic caused significant setbacks in sustainable development across the globe, countries in Europe such as Finland, Sweden, and Denmark have continued to pave the way in supporting sustainability efforts. In fact, a recent Sustainable Development Report showed that Northern Europe’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) index scores are the highest, topping the charts with scores around 80 and above. Average SDG scores tend to range around 65-75. With the European Union’s ambitious goals to reach zero-net emissions and adopted legislation across several policy sectors, Europe will continue to lead the way in what’s being called the Green Rush.
By working on manufacturing sustainably and being proactive in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, Europe continues to remain significantly ahead of U.S. efforts. While the U.S. has a long way to go in its efforts and initiatives for a cleaner environment, required reports and regulations under environmental compliance are pushing enterprises to reevaluate their efforts. Re-alignment on these practices begins by first identifying the business and environmental issues corporate leaders care about most. Environmental health and safety (EHS) professionals also need digital technologies and practices that support compliance management to drive efficiency. This enables businesses to follow suit by adding these efficiencies alongside other sustainability measures such as lowering water and energy usage and minimizing GHG emissions.
How Data Impacts Sustainability Efforts
A major component of environmental compliance involves the tedious process of Tier II reporting—an annual federal report mandatory for companies and their facilities that store hazardous materials above a certain threshold quantity. A large hurdle preparing these reports is tracking down and validating data across distributed facility locations, disconnected data systems, and other data sources such as spreadsheets. Integrating digital technologies into the entire data process empowers companies to centralize information, make data more visible, build a continuous and auditable process, and ultimately gain central control over the entire compliance program.
Data plays an integral role in improving business sustainability efforts to strengthen its reputation around environmental, health, and safety. Companies can eliminate incidents and develop strategic roadmaps with data management from reporting. By creating such roadmaps, enterprise organizations have greater visibility into what aspects could be improved by analyzing their environmental compliance programs and identifying gaps.
As the push for sustainability progresses forward, businesses that don’t adopt positive environmental initiatives and leverage the power of data will fall behind and face the repercussions set in place by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Enterprises must hone their efforts to ensure operational longevity as environmental compliance evolves over the next few years.
Luke Jacobs is Encamp’s CEO and helped launch the company in November 2017 as one of its co-founders. Before Encamp, he was an Environmental Scientist at GDH and a Research Associate III – Project Manager for Montana State University, a position funded through the National Science Foundation & U.S. Department of Energy. He earned his B.S. in Environmental Science from Indiana University Bloomington, and also received a Certificate of Underwater Resource Management from IU.