When it comes to documenting and meeting compliance requirements, many environmental teams rely on in-house tools, spreadsheets, calendars, and sticky notes, but these archaic processes can cause a lot of headaches and environmental compliance challenges.
These manual processes often lead to error-prone, inconsistent data and missed compliance deadlines, which often come with hefty fines. This is especially true for retailers, which have their own unique set of environmental compliance challenges, such as tracking storm water activities, conducting site-level inspections, keeping up with regulatory issues, managing service providers, and renewing licenses.
However, retailers don’t have to use these out-of-date methods to manage their compliance program. Today’s software innovations can help retailers not only improve compliance performance but also significantly reduce costs and streamline operations.
Here are three ways EHS software can solve some of the biggest environmental compliance challenges retailers face.
Variability among multiple locations
Retailers with multiple locations face different compliance requirements based on their jurisdiction and location. Even service needs, assets, and required activities can vary from store to store.
Take, for instance, storage tank capacities. While one location may require a certain tank size, it may be unnecessarily large for another urban site with a smaller geographic footprint, which means wasted costs.
In fact, we work closely with a major retailer that had 500 locations scheduled for remodeling in a single year. Before using environmental compliance software, the retailer automatically replaced the tanks with a larger model because it didn’t have the insight to see that these tank upgrades were unnecessary. By using our compliance software, the EHS team provided data to the remodel team that revealed historical tank usage. Rather than blindly upgrading all tanks, the retailer could make a data-driven, informed decision about how to proceed.
For every store that didn’t upgrade tanks, the retailer saved about $10,000. Considering that about half of the 500 remodels didn’t require a tank upgrade based on data, this resulted in a significant cost savings and gave the EHS team an opportunity to play a critical role in identifying a reduced-cost outcome for the business.
Poor data collection and quality
Relying on paper data collection, email, and individual spreadsheets makes for a cumbersome and error-prone tracking process, which often leads to poor data quality with missing information and documentation. Without a central, in-house data repository, work is often duplicated, resulting in hours of wasted labor. The lack of transparency also becomes an issue when teams across sites don’t have access to full data sets, especially when a regulator is on-site and asking to see compliance records.
One of our major retail clients used to struggle with this when tracking storm water process management. Relying on spreadsheets, email, and eight different contractor websites, the retailer wasted hours digging through emails to determine what work occurred at each facility, and even approved the same work order multiple times.
After the retailer implemented compliance software, contractors could identify work orders through the software, allowing the retailer to track, approve, and review the work prior to payment in one centralized location. In some cases, the retailer used that capability to outbid multiple contractors for better pricing, resulting in 20 percent savings in the first year alone. The compliance software helped the retailer create a defined workflow for storm water, ensured accurate record keeping, and provided contractors with better visibility to inspection requirements.
Related: That Thing No One Wants to Talk About: Dirty EHSQ Data
Incomplete reporting and analysis
Beyond data collection, many retailers struggle to conduct an in-depth analysis across their environmental programs without a centralized data source. Often multiple data sources span the company, making it difficult to track thousands of permits and certifications as well as the various environmental programs, such as waste, storm water, and grease management. Data discrepancies become a real issue without a sophisticated tracking system. Retailers must make important decisions about their operations without adequate data – and sometimes with inaccurate information.
One retail customer of ours dealt with this same problem before implementing Cority, which automates these processes and creates a single data source for improved visibility and accountability. With this critical data at the retailer’s fingertips, the EHS team could quickly look up service data, generate key program metrics, and proactively identify seasonal trends and estimate program usage around those dates. The software even allowed the retailer to create reporting reminders to avoid noncompliance penalties, including fines, additional obligations, and negative media attention that comes with those missed deadlines. Perhaps most importantly, when a regulator paid a surprise visit to a store, the manager on-site had the right information available.
With the right software, you can easily manage site variability from a single source, access better operational data, and work more efficiently when analyzing data and creating reports. Digitizing your processes and maintaining your critical EHS data in cloud-based software helps you reduce risk, streamline operations, and lower costs for overall improved compliance performance.
Overcome your Environmental Compliance Challenges
Keeping up with constant regulatory change and proactively identifying issues before they become incidents isn’t easy. That’s why we teamed up with Trinity Consultants, to answer five of the most frequently asked questions we get about how to create a culture of compliance, minimize risk, and overcome common environmental compliance challenges. Check our eBook, How to Reduce Environmental Risk and Create a Culture of Compliance to learn more.