Archive for February, 2011
I was doing some research the other day, pinging my usual online sources, when I decided to pick up the phone and call a colleague in my network. I was making progress, but that call changed everything and led to more calls….and that’s when I had my “ah ha” moment. Here it is: research is necessary, but tapping into your network is invaluable.
When you first started out in business, you probably were told to build a network. The concept is simple and the act of building a network has been made even simpler with the help of social media tools. Although it might seem easier to just Google whatever question you face, I think it’s worth taking the time to reach out to your network for the kind of perspective only your peers can provide.
The insight I gained from talking with colleagues that day changed the very direction of my project. It also made me stop and reflect on the collective wisdom my network provides. What do you think? Are you maximizing your network? Are you using NAEM’s online community to share information or ask questions? Are you cultivating new connections? If not, why?
How many times have you answered this question for colleagues and friends? To help you out, we’ve put together a short video to put your role in context. Enjoy!
In 2008 InterGen launched a proprietary, internally built system to track its environmental, health and safety (EHS) performance. We spoke with Mark Chrisos, Director of Health, Safety, Security and Environment, to learn more about the benefits and challenges of doing it yourself.
The Green Tie: Why did you decide to build your own system?
We originally had a system that was an off-the-shelf system and it became very cumbersome and labor intensive. We took the best attributes and decided to take a home-grown approach.
The Green Tie: What do you like about your new proprietary system?
One of the things we didn’t have with our old system was the ability to instantaneously enter data. To address that, the IT designers developed an incident reporting system that allows the site user to enter an event right away. (We own power plants across the world so when something happens, we all want to know about it quickly.) That event is then instantaneously sent to a selected group of people within our company through our internal e-mail system, with a timeframe based on the severity of the incident.
In the health and safety area, for example, a lost time incident needs to be entered within that shift, but whereas an unsafe act or condition could be entered by the end of the week. So we try to prioritize incidents and act on them based on that priority. It also allows us to make a comment back or an email back to check in and find out what’s going on. So it really makes our job easier on the incident side.
The Green Tie: Before you created your ‘BITS’ system, InterGen used multiple tracking systems. What are some of the benefits associated with streamlining your efforts?
The operations team, the maintenance team and the HSE teams work very closely together, so the new system allows us to enter incidents related to equipment, health and safety environment and even now, security. The plant teams can use this one system to add an event, to search an event, to look at monthly data, to look at reports, all in one screen.
Often times if there’s an equipment failure, it might have health safety or environmental implications. If you have a machine that uses oil and that machine fails, for example, you might have a spill around the equipment. With this system, you can track that both ways. All this then rolls up in a monthly report that we can generate based on location or by the fleet for everything going on in the company.
The Green Tie: Has the system changed your safety culture? If so, how?
I think the culture is changing based on the fact that people are now very comfortable reporting all incidents. For the past several years, we have emphasized that we need to collect data to track it because the more data we have, the better off we’ll be.
The new system encourages reporting system and makes it easier for us to trend data. People love to report things now but they expect us to report back to them with the results. So we provide feedback via trending on a quarterly basis and we develop programs, procedures and processes based on the trends that we see.
We can now track incidents by body parts, for example. If we see a bunch of eye injuries, we’ll be able to investigate that issue and look at whether our safety glasses program is working. And all the coordinators on the site-level appreciate it that we’re looking at it from a corporate or fleet approach and offering recommendations on how to address these issues.
The Green Tie: What were some of the challenges of putting a system like this together?
The first thing is internal cost. After that, it’s a matter of getting employees focused, making it a priority, and keeping up with it. And we found that if you don’t keep up with it, it’s not going to work. Every year, we do a survey of users to ask them what else they’d like us to track. We then issue an update once a year.
Teaching employees how to use it is another consideration. We’ve learned that if you don’t do the proper level of training, people are not going to use it. So we have a full-time IT/training coordinator and we work together on each year’s release. We have video conferencing with everybody; and we have a test site they can try out before it goes live. All these things are important to get people comfortable with it.
The Green Tie: If you could do it again, what are some of the things you would do differently?
What I think we learned is if you spend more time in the design phase it will save you time with the updates. We have far fewer changes this year than last year, but I think it’s important take a lot of time to chart out the plan. Getting more people involved also could have helped make the process smoother. Often times people who are unfamiliar with the issue can help catch things you overlook.
To learn more about InterGen’s internally built system or to discuss the latest trends in management information systems (MIS), join NAEM in San Antonio March 2 and 3 for the 2011 EHS MIS Conference.
Since 2001, NAEM has been tracking the evolution of the EHS MIS marketplace through a bi-annual benchmarking survey of users. This week we caught up with Margery Moore, Director of EHS Strategic Alliances at BNA, to discuss the 2011 survey and her perspective on the category today.
The Green Tie: What is an environmental management information system (EMIS) and how does it help improve EHS and sustainability performance?
An environmental management information system, or EMIS, is part of a billion-dollar-industry that, at its heart, is focused on compliance.
Increasingly, the data companies have has been traditionally managed (i.e. air, waste, water types of pollution impacts) is becoming a hot commodity within the context of climate or sustainability management. As such, tracking and managing carbon and greenhouse gases (GHG) is becoming more commonplace. This is reflected in the new types of modules and features available in EMIS. This growth area is also reflected in brand new software companies popping up to handle just GHG and carbon.
Does the use of a software tool make a company sustainable? No. But it does allow a company to better manage and analyze their data, and hopefully, make better decisions.
The Green Tie: You’ve been working on this survey since 2001. What changes have you seen over time?
The market has definitely grown, then contracted in the early 2000′s as larger companies bought smaller software companies to gain access to new features or customers.
More recently, we’ve seen a small explosion of sustainability and climate/carbon tracking software. Time will tell, however, what sticks.
The Green Tie: New on the survey this year is a question about social media. Why is this important?
The use of social media tools is having an impact, as environment, health and safety (EHS) professionals start to blog and use Twitter. A few years ago, that was unheard of! The public now demands transparency, and they expect their employers and companies in general to provide that.
Social media is also empowering the average consumer in incredible ways. You can use your phone and download an app, scan a product code, and Good Guide will tell you its eco-rating! Pretty cool. That is just one example.
The Green Tie: What are you most interested in learning from this year’s survey?
How social media is impacting companies, and the hot new features software providers are now offering. It also will be very interesting to see if budgeting for EMISs has changed over the past two years. 2008-9 were terrible years for spending. Have we recovered? Big question.
The Green Tie: Do you think people are surprised by how much others spend on EMIS?
Yes, frankly. Those outside the industry are shocked when I tell them it’s a more than billion-dollar-a-year industry! But, when you explain that each company probably has hundreds of environmental, health and safety regulations to comply with, each with its own data requirements to prove compliance, it’s clear that software is the only way to go. Can you imagine trying to do this in Excel or on paper? It would be a nightmare.
To benchmark your software system against your peers, take the 2011 EHS MIS benchmarking survey. Respondents will receive a copy of the results. To learn more about the latest ways to improve your EHS performance through data management, join NAEM in San Antonio on March 2 and 3 for the 2011 EHS MIS conference.
Thank you all again for helping make this year’s Member Appreciation Week a success! And thanks to those of you who entered the raffle. The winners are…
As part of our Member Appreciation Week celebration, we asked Ana Fernandez to tell us what NAEM means to her:
I began my journey with NAEM 10 years ago when I was an environmental manager looking for courses to learn more about the topics that were relevant at the time: water, waste, management, etc. Sound familiar? I attended several of the courses offered by NAEM and after about a year of running into the same folks from the Washington, D.C. office I was asked to start the Atlanta Chapter.
Not long after that happened, I was offered a great opportunity to become an environmental director at another company. I continued my participation in, and commitment to, NAEM so much so that I mentioned them during my interview and the importance of my new company participating in the organization as a corporate member. So why all the devotion to this organization?
NAEM was the first professional organization that introduced me to peers in my field of work. The majority of us in the environment, health and safety (EHS) field do not focus on the core competency of the organizations where we work. That’s not to say we don’t contribute to the safety of our associates or the strategy of the firm. What it means is that we are outsiders that work very hard to fit in and contribute to the success of our companies. When the chance comes along to mingle and tell war stories with people that understand what you do and appreciate it at face value…well, who wouldn’t want to be in that club?
The people I’ve met at NAEM are more than just professional colleagues. The annual Forum is like a family reunion where you see what seem like brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles…and without fail, patriarchs and matriarchs that are the cornerstones of the organization.
NAEM didn’t just improve my knowledge as an EHS professional and my proficiency as a manager, it enriched my life, too.
Ana Fernandez is the Corporate Director of Environmental Programs for U.S. Foodservice, Inc. Before joining USF, she worked for Coca-Cola Enterprises in their Corporate Environmental Affairs Department where she brokered the Charter Partnership with EPA’s Smart Way Transport Program. She is President of the Atlanta Chapter of NAEM and a member of Georgia State University’s Advisory Board for Ethics and Social Responsibility.
As part of our celebration for Member Appreciation Week we asked Emily Barton to share her top 10 NAEM moments:
1. Realizing I was not alone: It was at my first NAEM event, an Environmental Management Information Systems workshop hosted by Anheuser-Busch that I first realized there are a whole lot of people like me out there. My network opened up exponentially that day and I knew it was the beginning of a beautiful affiliation (and not just because of the refreshments!).
2. Attending my first NAEM Forum: My first Forum in Atlanta in 1996 is memorable, not only for the rich programming and meeting my peers, but also because in an effort to save my company money, I stayed at a Howard Johnson down the street. (Some of you may also remember a similar story at the Orlando Forum, where I had to cross a 6 lane highway each day to get to the Forum…) This was also the moment when Carol used her unparalleled powers of persuasion to convince all of us in the Chicago area to start a local chapter.
3. Kicking off the Lake Michigan Chapter in 1997: We signed a charter and held our inaugural Chapter meeting at the Wrigley building on Michigan Avenue in Chicago. The topic was “Environmental Management Systems” (woo – hot topic!), and we had a turnout of over 50 people. Kelvin Roth (outgoing national President) and Roberto Piccioni were instrumental members of the founding committee and still active NAEM members today.
4. Putting my NAEM network to the test: When I moved to Boston and landed a job, it reminded me that this community will always be there for me. And I am fairly certain that at some point in my career, I will need to put it to the test again!
5. Participating in the NAEM-sponsored Carnegie Mellon certificate program: In 2003 I spent four weeks of the year in Pittsburgh with some fellow NAEM members. You may not think that four weeks in Pittsburgh should fall into anyone’s Top 10 life moments, but it was a great experience (and a really cool city)! We learned so much from each one another and had a lot of fun. Some current NAEM members that “graduated” with me that year were Debbie Hammond, Theresa Jordan, Glen Eckberg, Mario Varela, Nicola Davey and John Kahabka. Through this experience, I learned that I am an ENFP, a personality type I share with Dr. Seuss (thank you Meyers and Briggs!).
6. Witnessing Larry Deeney’s skills on the dance floor for the very first time: Who knew he had it in him? Ever since we saw him in action at the Orlando Forum in 2002, he has been entertaining us with his dance skills. Let’s also not forget the fact that he chaired the self-proclaimed “Best…Forum…EVER”.
7. The 2003 Board of Directors meeting in the Sonoma Valley and the 2004 Board of Directors meeting in Nantucket: Enough said.
8. The Hayride at Traders Point Creamery before the 2010 Forum in Indy: After the Board of Regents meeting last fall, we were treated to a dusting from the manure sprinkler and we just about lost several board members off the back of the trailer, when the tractor pulling us ran over an irrigation pipe. The driver/owner was a little bit embarrassed, but luckily we wiped the smell from our memory in time to enjoy a delicious farm dinner. If you can buy Traders Point Creamery Ice Cream anywhere near where you live, I strongly suggest you do.
9. Attending 10 Forums and counting, along with numerous workshops and web seminars: Through these programs, I have made invaluable connections. I constantly find myself referring back to presentations and notes from the programming and have also been able to travel to great parts of our beautiful continent. Two of my most memorable Forums were in Canada (Vancouver and Montreal) so let’s rally for future Canadian locations! Note: I am sure Virginia et al, will also appreciate me mentioning that serving on the Forum committee for three years also has been very rewarding!
10. Connecting to all of you: Between sharing some amazing meals, raising a glass or two, laughing and dancing the bright people in this community have broadened my perspective and shown me a great time along the way!
Emily Barton is a Corporate Environmental Manager for Motorola Mobility, focusing on EHS governance, climate change and product stewardship. She has been with Motorola for more than 10 years and has served on the NAEM Board of Directors, Board of Regents and the Lake Michigan chapter.