Benchmarking EHS Information Systems


Jake White

I recently returned from NAEM’s EHS Management Information Systems conference held in Tampa, FL. The event was convened in the same spirit in which it began in the mid-1990s — as a forum for EHS professionals to share real-world experience about implementing data management systems.

Since 2001, NAEM has used the conference as an occasion to conduct an extensive benchmarking survey. This year’s survey results continue to provide insight into how EHS professionals use and value information management tools as well as some insight into the EHS Management Information Systems (EHS-MIS) industry itself.

Here are five quick observations and questions drawn from the survey data.

First, off-the-shelf EHS-MIS have completed the move from “standalone client software” to “web browser-based access”; a transition that started in earnest in 2005. Also, use of outside-the-corporate-firewall data hosting continues to expand — earlier security prohibitions appear to be relaxing.

  • Question on the web-based client: Are these tools able to effectively serve remote international facilities with poor internet connectivity? And if not, what are the implications?

Second, in that same world where slick tools from Google, Yahoo and others are free, it appears that we might be getting a little jaded about our own systems — effectiveness ratings for enterprise EHS-MIS are down a full tick.

  • Question: Are expectations higher, or are systems less effective?

Third, as someone privileged to work with forward-thinking EHS leaders in the 1990’s to build tools to do what off-the-shelf systems didn’t, I couldn’t help but notice that nearly half of survey respondents still build their own systems — and that a third of those systems are maintained by EHS professionals, not consultants or corporate IT.

  • Question: Is this pattern based on interest or necessity?

Fourth, there are new unmet needs in EHS-MIS. Respondents need tools for Carbon Footprinting, GHG Reporting, Packaging/Raw Materials Management, and LEED/Green Building. Yet they only report plans to fund efforts in the first two areas.

  • Question: Why the different treatment?

Finally, a surprise — the survey doesn’t show a huge shift in the size or allocation of EHS-MIS budgets. But neither, after several years, does there seem to be a strong correlation between company size and EHS-MIS budget — budgets for companies from $1 to $10 Billion range from under $100K to over $10 Million.

  • Question: Can there be a best practice target for overall EHS budget based on company size? What about for EHS-MIS?

So, what do YOU think? Where will we be two years from now?

About Jake White

Jake White is an IT Project Director with AECOM Environment and a self-described advocate for “doing things better, cheaper, and faster” in the workplace. He has been active as an NAEM affiliate since the 1990s.

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  1. nigelpm

    June 2, 2011

    These findings and associated questions reveal much about how EHS professionals use MIS, and what has changed and not changed over the years. I’m very interested in the full results of the NAEM survey or seeing your powerpoint deck. Would it be possible to email one or both to me? I research MIS for sustainability and my blog on IS for environmental sustainability is here:
    Cheers, Nigel

    • The Green Tie

      June 6, 2011

      Hi Nigel,

      Thanks for your comment! The full report is available for sale to non-NAEM members. Please contact Brent Hendrix, Manager of Marketing and Sales at for more information.

      Thanks again!

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