Element 5 is mid level in size as it officially requires 7 hours of tuition time. This element covers environmental performance evaluation over just two learning outcomes. One of the outcomes is an ‘Explain’ and the other is an ‘Outline’. The element consists of information regarding the various ways and means of determining environmental performance.
Environmental performance indicators (EPIs)
A common way to measure performance in business is to develop and monitor key performance indicators (KPIs). EPIs are essentially the environmental version of KPIs. They are quantitative measures that are related to an organisation’s environmental performance. I’ve noticed over the years that students sometimes get confused between an EPI and a target. An EPI is a measure, on its own it does not tell us about how good or not so good a record a company has; it is just a way of tracking. However, EPIs are often associated with a target within an EMS. The EPI therefore gives us some idea of good and bad performance and a target provides context (although it is a separate entity). EPI’s can be set for many issues.
Most students would probably say that EPIs should be set for issues such as waste, energy and water consumption. These are often called operational performance indicators (OPIs). They tend to cover the environmental aspects of an organisation. You should, however, be aware that they can be selected for management issues as well such as those associated with the level of compliance with environmental regulations or number of audit findings. In this case EPIs are a direct measure of the organisation’s EMS and can be called management performance indicators (MPIs).
Active and reactive monitoring
If you are reading this and you come from a health and safety background, then I guess you will be well aware of these terms! They are not used quite as often in environmental management, but they are just as important. Active monitoring is any kind of measure that involves monitoring deficiencies that may lead to an incident occurring in the future. For example, if we complete an inspection of a bund wall and notice that it has worn somewhat then we can arrange for it to be fixed and it will not leak at some point.
Conversely, if we do not carry out an inspection, the bund may leak into a surface water drain and eventually a river causing pollution and the organisation is prosecuted. This is an example of reactive monitoring. We waited until the spillage occurred and then reacted.
As I am sure you have worked out, active monitoring is probably best as it is preventative. However, it can require more resources. Reactive monitoring is often a weaker approach. It’s accuracy can be low as people do not always report incidents.
Auditing is a management tool that is used in many disciplines such as accounting and quality management. Essentially, an audit is a check on how well something is being managed. For an audit to be an audit we need to be determining performance against a recognised approach to controlling an issue such as a standard, code of practice or the law. These are called audit criteria. Any gaps in performance between what is being checked and the audit criteria is a non-conformance that needs to be rectified. And any areas that comply with the criteria are known as conformances.
However, an audit is NOT an inspection. An inspection covers the nitty gritty of day to day environmental management. Let’s consider an example. We might conduct an inspection every week to determine the quality of bund walls that surround some oil tanks. This would involve checks for general wear and tear and housekeeping etc. An audit would be different. It would cover higher level checks to determine if there is a management approach for an environmental issue. It can cover issues such as training, impact assessment, reporting etc.
Element 5 – Final note
There are a couple of key learning points in Element 5. As such it is not a huge element, but they are important nonetheless. Next we will take a look at Element 6: Sustainability.
John Binns BSc (Hons), MSc, MIEMA
With over 19 years’ experience working in environment management, John Binns BSc (Hons) MSc MIEMA is an experienced environmental tutor and consultant with knowledge of health and safety management.