Earlier this week, we had the pleasure of hosting a Webinar in conjunction with CH2M HILL and the GreenBiz Group. The webinar “Mandatory vs. Voluntary: Creating an Environmental Compliance Culture of Value,” featured Nigel Nugent, vice president of worldwide sales at Enviance, and Andrea Gardner, senior technologist of sustainability at CH2M Hill. Joel Makower, executive editor of GreenBiz Group, moderated the discussion.
The webinar brought these experts together to discuss how companies can develop blended environmental compliance strategies that integrate both mandatory and voluntary activities. This approach to mandatory environmental compliance and voluntary sustainability reports may seem contrary to many companies, who tend to separate the two efforts among different departments, but there are many benefits that result from combining these activities.
First, let’s clarify the differences between mandatory and voluntary compliance. CH2M Hill’s Gardner emphasized that the biggest difference between these is that one that is reactive in nature while the other is proactive. For example, voluntary results are analyzed, and regulatory results are reported. Companies that are going above and beyond regulatory compliance requirements, and have implemented some form of voluntary compliance, are considered to be aspirational—they’re looking toward the future and proactively asking themselves, “What kind of company do we want to become? How can we minimize our environmental impact?” Conversely, regulatory compliance is focused on the here and now. They think in terms of “Where does my company stand from a compliance standpoint, at this very moment?” This line of thinking is much more risk-averse and reactive.
There are many advantages to a blended voluntary and mandatory compliance department, but only if it is implemented appropriately. Many companies set up separate departments for voluntary and mandatory–and prefer the separation. However, there are negative consequences if the disparate groups are not managed and monitored properly. For example, they may pursue projects that require the same company resources and conduct duplicate data collection—wasting both time and money. Isolated data sets collected and stored in each respective department’s database, can reduce effectiveness of planning and decision-making and cause internal confusion as companies struggle to determine which data set is the true accurate representation.
These issues illustrate why many companies choose to house these extremely unique approaches to sustainability within the same department. According to Nugent, mandatory compliance teams are strengthened by the inclusion of voluntary sustainability. The likenesses between voluntary sustainability and regulatory compliance offer access to a host of benefits that can help decrease a company’s bottom line. The sharing of critical data, saved resources (by staffing only one team), a single repository for data management (allowing for more efficient data use), and streamlined operational processes all create tremendous value for the organization. Also, it provides a competitive advantage; since voluntary standards can eventually become mandatory, monitoring these early on helps organizations better prepare themselves.
It’s clear that there are many benefits to combining voluntary and mandatory compliance efforts if it’s done in a monitored and controlled fashion. However, it’s up to each individual organization to decide if this kind of strategy is what best suits their goals and needs.
Stay tuned for more webinars with Enviance customers and partners as we move into the waning months of 2011. We have much more in store for you!
Watch the Webinar here.