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ERA's Environmental Compliance Management Blog

A Lesson in Environmental Management from Green Builders

Posted by Alex Chamberlain

Alex Chamberlain is a writer for ERA Environmental Management Solutions.

Environmental management lessons from house buildingWhen it comes to cost-saving sustainability efforts, it's important to take the lessons learned by other industries to heart. That's one of the best ways to ensure you don't make the same mistakes and avoid some of the most common pitfalls.

To this point, today we're sharing an article that seemingly doesn't apply to businesses outside the building industry... but the points made in Environmental Leader's article "When It Comes to the Built Environment, 'Spend Now to Save Later'" should be taken to heart by executives in the manufacturing industry.

Here are two of the key lessons this article shares from one industry to another:

Pre-emptive Action & Environmentally Preferable Purchasing

"Anyone who has ever framed a structure knows that mistakes happen, but those who learn the underlying lessons of those errors recognize that they must be corrected as soon as they are discovered—otherwise, they will haunt the process all the way through to completion. Mistakes are always easier and less expensive to correct sooner than later."

While there's the obvious lesson here - that it's always better to fix reporting and compliance errors the moment you discover them rather than just hoping your regulators don't discover them - this quote also points to the importance of getting your materials right the first time. 

If you bring in a material into your facility and/or processes, its resulting emissions and environmental impact will indeed haunt your compliance throughout the rest of the year. If you find out that a certain material was on an EPA ban list after you use it, your entire compliance will be affected at reporting time and you'll be left with a batch of final product that can't be sold. 

The idea of correcting mistakes before they occur, as the above quote suggests, can be taken a step further in manufacturing by using Environmentally Preferable Purchasing (EPP) and emissions forecasting to discover the potential for mistakes before they even get purchased.

Frame Out Your Environmental Efforts

"In a chapter about framing he [Builder Tracy Kidder] shares the following: 'Proper and efficient framing is the art of thinking ahead with clarity, of seeing the end in the beginning and [having] made the exercise of forethought, which is the opposite of ‘thrashing’ (a disjointed set of bad procedures that lead to ‘cobby’ work), part of [the builders'] daily routine in all departments of houseraising.'"

Although the author is literally talking about the importance of properly framing out a house before it is built, his words also ring equally true for any business looking at corporate sustainability and corporate social responsibility (CSR).

Both can yield great business benefits but require some intensive planning. In order to maximize the return on investment (ROI), you'll need forethought and a long-term plan otherwise you'll end up taking a scattershot approach to CSR activities which won't really pay off.

"Framing out" your sustainability or CSR planning will require a meeting of the minds between your environmental team and your executive leaders. It will also require an understanding that these types of business plans don't always have immediate or easily measurable returns.

Because it can take years to see the payoff, you do need to see the end in the beginning of your CSR planning to keep your business on track and continuing to dedicate the resources needed. Plus, by having a clear vision of what your success will look like, it will be easier to plan which steps you'll need to take.

Help Each Other Out

The key takeaway from this article we want to highlight is that it’s vital for every industry and sector to help each other out in terms of sustainability planning and best practices.

Even though the types of problems and solutions will be vastly different for every business, there are lessons learned that can apply to any business. By pooling our knowledge, manufacturing as a whole will benefit.

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Alex Chamberlain

About the Author: Alex Chamberlain is a writer and blogger who regularly contributes to ERA Environmental Management Solutions' blog. You can find Alex on Google+LinkedIn & ERA's Environmental Compliance Blog


Topics: Environmental Compliance & Data Management