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Diane’s LinkedIn Answer about Environmental Reporting, Metrics and Data

Posted by Diane Kulisek on November 30, 2009

This question, which is actually a collection of questions, about “Environmental reporting – defining metrics, retrieving data from data warehouses or other data sources” was posted on LinkedIn by colleague Lauchlan Mackinnon, Ph.D., a specialist in the areas of creative thinking, innovation, value creation and change management.  The question(s) was (were) answered by Diane Kulisek and hers was selected as the ‘best’ answer byDr. Mackinnon. 

Here are the elements of the question:

  • What models are you using for environmental reporting to define the metrics to report against, retrieve the data, and report on it?
  • Which frameworks and approaches do you find most useful?
  • What is your strategy for defining the appropriate environmental reporting metrics?
    • Are these metrics mandated by reporting standards (and if so, how so?); or
    • do you have considerable freedom and flexibility in defining them in the way that best suits the company the reporting is being done for?
  • I would also appreciate any specific advice regarding to what extent you can retrieve the required data from existing data warehouses / data stores, or you need to define and collect new streams of data to report effectively.
  • Also, to what extent do you tie this reporting with other existing reporting (e.g. balanced scorecard) and to what extent do you treat environmental reporting as a seperate reporting task (e.g. a compliance obligation as seperate to busines operations management)? It would make sense to me to integrate the two, but I want to see what you think . . .Any references to specific approaches you use or standards and frameworks you find particularly useful will be appreciated.

Diane’s Answer(s):

Those are a lot of questions to ask at once and, were I sitting down to discuss this with you 1-to-1, I’d need a lot of clarification to feel as though I could really do the answers justice. That being said, I would like to tackle a few aspects of your questions to start with and recommend that you narrow the scope of your inquiry for further dialogue.

Firstly, on the matter of strategy definition, standards may be an important consideration, especially if a standard is contractually imposed or imposed via a regulatory agency. The standard series with which I am most familiar is strictly for physical environments: ISO 14000. You can obtain a copy of it and related standards from the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).  These documents are not cheap.

Some companies have begun adopting a “green” posture for public relations, as well. If this is the case, I recommend that an environmental “policy statement” be developed and that each element of that statement be broken into discrete components of the organization’s overall strategic plan. For each such element, key performance indicators will need to be defined that are either variably measurable or attainable as an attribute (go/no go, did/didn’t, etc.). Each such metric should then be flowed into each operating policy and/or procedure that can generate any part of it throughout the operation. The personnel doing the work can be trained in the use of dashboards to monitor their own contribution toward attaining the strategic objectives. Dashboard data would typically be rolled upward into the balanced scorecard at the organization-wide level.

If you are working in something other than a physical environment, per se (i.e. a software development environment, financial environment, etc.), you may want to manage things quite differently and, certainly, you should be able to link to automated streams of data to fill out real-time metrics compilers for much more complex, live, intranet-hosted reporting.

I saw a nice example of a streaming data financial dashboard on a website that compiles such examples recently. [Edit:  The example was on DashboardSpy.com, a great resource].   I believe I copied a link for it into a free presentation handout available through my company website under the “downloads and links” tab (www.capatrak.com).  The presentation is titled: “Quality Metrics, [Scorecards] and Dashboards“. My expertise is in quality management and regulatory affairs, so you might need to temper your expectations a bit with regard to applicability for environmental management and regulation. The same information should also be useful for the environmental management side of the world, however. If you don’t mind tailoring them for your use, there are also free downloadable, editable, Excel-based balanced scorecard and simple dashboard templates for you there. I’ve also got an example of a strategic plan and a very simple MS Word based editable template for a strategic plan there… but they are intended for quality endeavors and would be derived from an organization’s quality mission statement as opposed to an environmental policy. It shouldn’t be hard to make the necessary modifications for them to work with an environmental policy, however.

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