The Evolution of EHS and Sustainability Metrics

The landscape of EHS and sustainability metrics is changing as technology continues to change how  businesses use metrics to improve their programs. Priorities have shifted away from mere compliance towards a focus on implementing industry best practices, from periodic data reporting to real-time data monitoring, from lagging indicators to leading indicators, from simple implementation of EHS management programs to fully immersing and engaging employees in a culture of safety and sustainability, and from looking at where the company has been…to where it is going.

Unfortunately, companies still struggle to leverage metrics in a way that achieves the full potential of their EHS and sustainability management programs. All too often, EHS managers and C-Suite executives rely solely on lagging indicators like injury rates, DART rates, exposures & releases, energy consumption, and compliance violations to gauge the effectiveness of EHS programs, despite the widely accepted belief that these reactive measures do not paint a full picture of the EHS landscape. Lagging indicators can’t tell the full story of where a company is headed, but they can provide meaningful context based on past and present performance.

Leading indicators, on the other hand, can provide critical insight into where a program will be in the future. They offer the ability to predict risk and alert EHS managers to potential failures. However, leading indicators alone do not provide a holistic portrait of an organization because they lack the historical context. By combining leading and lagging indicators into a balanced scorecard approach, organizations are able to eliminate or control risks that contribute to incidents and injuries. This gives organizations greater opportunity to identify and prevent problems before they arise, and tells the complete tale of a company’s past, current and future EHS performance.

As C-Suite executives become increasingly focused on EHS and sustainability performance, there is a growing need to provide them with the most relevant, timely and actionable EHS metrics in a format that they can quickly understand and easily integrate with business strategies and decision-making processes. Providing C-Suite executives with the most accurate, up-to-date information is critical to increasing their awareness, support, and commitment to EHS and sustainability programs. By centralizing EHS and sustainability metrics across the entire enterprise, directors of EHS programs and C-Suite executives can access and analyze those metrics with greater speed and ease.

Monitoring and reporting EHS metrics can require considerable time, effort, and cost. Tracking the wrong metrics provides poor business intelligence, wastes valuable resources, discourages employee engagement with EHS programs, and is misleading to external data users. However, the right metrics can help your organization to reduce costs, improve performance, more effectively manage risk, enhance employee engagement, free-up resources to pursue your organization’s EHS goals, and give corporate officers the insights they need to make data-driven decisions in real-time — without getting lost in a sea of information.

If you’re ready to take another look at your company’s EHS & Sustainability Metrics, I hope you’ll join Velocity EHS and NAEM for the June 23 webinar, entitled “It’s a Numbers World We’re Living In: Which Metrics to Choose and Why.”

About Kate Even

Kate Even has been a member of the Implementation Consulting Group at VelocityEHS since 2014, and works directly with customers to help them get the most from their EHS Management Information Systems. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Sustainability from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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