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A Lesson in Environmental Management from Green Builders

Environmental management lessons from house buildingWhen it comes to cost-saving sustainability efforts, it's important to take the lessons learned by other industries to heart. That's one of the best ways to ensure you don't make the same mistakes and avoid some of the most common pitfalls.

We looked at what home builders with a green reputation had to say about environmental management strategy and here are some of the recurring points:

Fix Mistakes as Soon as You Find Them

It's always better to fix reporting and compliance errors the moment you discover them rather than just hoping your regulators don't discover them. You can't build a house knowing there's something wrong with the inside structure, because you'll waste time and money fixing it later. 

If you bring in a material into your facility and/or processes, its resulting emissions and environmental impact will indeed haunt your compliance throughout the rest of the year. If you find out that a certain material was on an EPA ban list after you use it, your entire compliance will be affected at reporting time and you'll be left with a batch of final product that can't be sold. 

The idea of correcting mistakes before they occur can be taken a step further in manufacturing by using Environmentally Preferable Purchasing (EPP) and emissions forecasting to discover the potential for mistakes before they even get purchased.

Said one builder: "Anyone who has ever framed a structure knows that mistakes happen, but those who learn the underlying lessons of those errors recognize that they must be corrected as soon as they are discovered—otherwise, they will haunt the process all the way through to completion. Mistakes are always easier and less expensive to correct sooner than later."

Agree on a Plan First and Bring the Whole Team Onboard

Framing out your sustainability or CSR planning will require a meeting of the minds between your environmental team and your executive leaders. It will also require an understanding that these types of business plans don't always have immediate or easily measurable returns. 

Corporate sustainability and corporate social responsibility (CSR) can yield great business benefits but require some intensive planning. In order to maximize the return on investment (ROI), you'll need forethought and a long-term plan otherwise you'll end up taking a scattershot approach to CSR activities which won't really pay off.

Because it can take years to see the payoff, you do need to see the end in the beginning of your CSR planning to keep your business on track and continuing to dedicate the resources needed. Plus, by having a clear vision of what your success will look like, it will be easier to plan which steps you'll need to take.

'Proper and efficient framing is the art of thinking ahead with clarity, of seeing the end in the beginning and [having] made the exercise of forethought, which is the opposite of ‘thrashing’ (a disjointed set of bad procedures that lead to ‘cobby’ work), part of [the builders'] daily routine in all departments of house-raising.'" –Tracy Kidder

Help Each Other Out

The key takeaway from this article we want to highlight is that it’s vital for every industry and sector to help each other out in terms of sustainability planning and best practices.

Even though the types of problems and solutions will be vastly different for every business, there are lessons learned that can apply to any business. By pooling our knowledge, manufacturing as a whole will benefit. In keeping with what our friend and sustainability expert John Bradburn purports, sustainability brings many levels of the supply chain, industry, and government together to work for a common goal.

Even though the types of problems and solutions will be vastly different for every business, there are lessons learned that can apply to any business. By pooling our knowledge, manufacturing will learn more and improve their practices.

The Real Benefits of Software Helping You Step Up to Sustainability

Delivering insights into your environmental sustainability is key. ERA’s software lets you comprehensively report and drill into the data already being collected for regulatory reporting. Delivering key insights across all departments can represent a massive benefit.

Reports can also be customized and custom built, meeting any internal or specialized compliance need for your business.

  • Greenhouse Gas Emissions
  • GRI Global Reporting Initiative
  • CDP formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project
  • DJSI Dow Jones Sustainability Indices

 Dynamic Reporting Puts You in Control

Dynamic reports from ERA break down entire complex processes into simple- all without compromising accuracy.

  • Streamline the time spent calculating your energy usage and waste emissions. 
  • Ultimately deliver a more rigorous set of emissions reports, across all your environmental reporting.
  • Produce waste reporting with the full support of ERA’s team of Environmental, Health & Safety (EH&S) professionals.

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This post was written by Alex Chamberlain

Alex Chamberlain is a writer for ERA Environmental Management Solutions.

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