Many people do not realize that EHS auditing can provide a big boost to a company’s bottom line. During a recent conversation with Karen Goryl, a certified professional environmental auditor (CPEA), I was reminded of the important service EHS auditors provide to companies looking for cost-savings across the organization.
Karen is a senior environmental engineer who works for Daimler, the German company that produces Mercedes-Benz vehicles. Mercedes-Benz has been famous for decades for the safety of their vehicles, which no doubt has contributed to their success. So when it came to environmental compliance in their company’s manufacturing locations, Karen expected that she would be most successful if she stressed how EHS controls could positively affect the bottom line. She was right. When Karen retires later this year, she will leave a legacy of efficiency and environmental controls that regularly saves the company money — big money!
Karen shared her experience with me as we stood in front of my IIA booth at the Alliance of Hazardous Materials Professionals conference in Washington, D. C., last month. Karen’s methods resonated with me long after the conference as being a true key to success because no matter how well you know how to do you your job, you can’t do it without the buy-in and support of higher ups. And she clearly found a way to get management and the board’s support by making a big difference to the bottom line.
It wasn’t easy. Karen dug through every part of her company’s manufacturing process to see and measure almost everything. For example, she metered not only the water coming in but also the waste going out, which helped to ensure that utility vendors were not “double dipping” on their invoices. She successfully made the case to plant managers, executives, and top leadership that properly executed process controls and sustainability measures not only protected employees, reduced waste, and satisfied regulators but also saved the company money. By being the “boots on the ground,” and checking every element of the process thoroughly, she earned the support of the company and the ability to make things right.
It reminds me of a successful campaign I experienced years ago at 3M called Pollution Prevention Pays. Not only was this a catchy phrase, but, at the time, 3M was a pioneer in this progressive thinking. They pushed front-end management to prevent waste rather than just manage waste they created. In other words, they focused on pollution prevention rather than traditional, compliance-driven, end-of-pipe waste management. This program is still in place today, and 3M has reported more than US$1.2 billion in savings to the company over 34 years (see the sustainability section of the 3M website for more detail).
My point is that EHS auditing can make a big difference in reducing the cost of compliance. I urge EHS practitioners to make that case — to look beyond the end-of-pipe compliance checklist and offer recommendations to prevent the waste from being created, or find opportunities to eliminate a hazard in the workplace, that will ultimately make a positive contribution to the bottom line.