Tracking EHS MIS: An interview with Margery Moore

 

Margery Moore

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.

About Margery Moore

Margery Moore is the Director of EHS Alliances for the Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. (BNA) and a member of the NAEM Board of Directors. During her spare time, she serves as advisor to the Association for Climate Change Officers (ACCO) and runs The Institute for Sustainability Education & Action on Salt Spring Island, B.C.

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4 Comments
  1. Rick Lebherz

    February 17, 2011

    Thanks for sharing your thought. I appreciate your insights. The last line about Excel and paper is very true. But I believe the fact is many company’s still live in that world and in my experience older members of the EHS communities are resistant to change and adopt new tools at this stage in their careers. Many companies and industries have an attitude that EHS departments and software is a cost center not a potential area for cost savings and increased efficiencies. More so when you consider the amount of new regulations and the increasing amounts of NOVs.
    The economy and the affect it has had on the US based manufacturing and commercial markets I believe has also had an impact. As globalization continues to expand and move these facilities overseas to regions where the EHS rules are more hands off I believe some companies take the attitude of we will deal with it when we have too and its cheaper to pay the fines and cleanup that the cost of fixing operations. This is more for Global organizations. Locals smaller companies are being squeezed as well and budgets are tightening so the “excel” is free attitude is seem often as well. The EHS dept can handle it and yes software would help, but the team can manage and it will just take them longer to do so.

    I would love to see a shift and change in this mindset, and perhaps others may not agree, but in working with these companies everyday, I thought I would share my 1.5 cents.

    NAEM keep up the great work and knowledge sharing.

  2. jon

    February 18, 2011

    My experience is the excel approach is likely as good, and cheaper if adminstered by a knowledgeable (in the area of the metrics) person. It’s problem is the longevity, accuracy, and integrity of the “manual” method leave when that person leaves, and it has to be recreated.

    The care and feeding of an MIS system is substantial…I have seen it implement twice.

    It is a cost center…just a good cost like insurance…being a cost center is not a bad thing.

  3. Geoff Boraston

    February 18, 2011

    The value an EMIS bring to an organization depends on the complexity of the organization and the amount of data/information that must be maintained. My take is that it would be difficult for a relatively complex business with multiple facilities/operations to function effectively or efficiently on spreadsheets. There is a cost to an EMIS, but I believe there can be a much greater cost savings. It is incumbent on the EHS professional to be able to sell this to management. I am thankful for our EMIS every day.

  4. Rick Lebherz

    August 18, 2011

    Jon,
    I have to disagree. While you may have implemented systems twice, I deal with these everyday. Some can be complictaed but many are very simple. To be honest much of it depends on the quality of the data and the organization you have to begin with.

    While excel is okay for some general work done by individuals, it is not system. It is a tool that many systems can export information into since people who would prefer to use what they know can get what they need in that form but Excel doesnt provie real time information, it doesnt allow for proactive management practices, it doesnt have automated alerts or triggers based on various level and requirements, it doesnt allow for centralized and rolled up data from a corporate perspective that allows for complete corporate numbers and metrics to help achieve targets verus looking back on numbers from the year or previous months and trying to adjust after the fact.

    You mention that the care and feeding of an MIS system is substaintial, but I am not entirely sure what you mean. If by care you mean maintenance, setup, and ongoing support, that is true in some models (old software) but in the web based approach and cloud models, those variables are removed and in fact the cost are reduce as well. (read Tim Chou for more detailed information) If by feeding you mean managing the information in the system and insuring that it is kept up to date, then yes absolutely. This is one of the purpose of the system. It forces accountablity and management to ensure that everything is being handled and can be show and handled quickly. In theory you should be logging into these programs everyday and managing you jobs, daily routines, tasks and everything from these tools just like you check your email every morning. They are there to help you, but they are also there to ensure that the company and the management and all parties involved know everything is getting done, and if there are any areas that need attention they are handled quickly. And with hand held devices like the iPhone or WIFI and 3G access in the fields, there is no reason you can update the information while you do the work reducing the need for double entry and possible human error.

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