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    Put your sustainability management under one umbrellaTo cap off the week, ERA is sharing a blog post from Environmental Leader that touches on a subject near and dear to our heart: corporate sustainability management.

    In the in-depth article by Matt Littlefield and Mike Roberts of LNS Research, titled "Enterprise Sustainability Management: An Emerging Paradigm", the authors discuss the evolution of sustainability across the business and industrial sector. They chart sustainability management as a concept through Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to current trends in sustainability reporting and identify the next step, Enterprise Sustainability Management (ESM).

    What's most compelling about this article is that they pinpoint one of the most problematic aspects of CSR and sustainabilty reporting in general:

    "Sustainability touches every area of the value chain, including product development, procurement, manufacturing, maintenance, sales, delivery, and customer service. It’s often ill-defined, even within the same organizations. For some groups, it’s about reducing energy and carbon use or designing eco-friendly products. While for others it’s about reducing operational risks with Environmental, Health and Safety (EH&S) processes, and so on."

    This is a trend that many in the manufacturing industry have been attempting to reconcile through greener supply chain management, tracing environmental Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) all the way back through the supply chain to the moment the natural resources used in production are extracted. 

    ESM is all about getting your sustainability management practices under one roof and working together instead of treating sustainability as a separate process in your retail sales, your production, and your corporate offices. Its goal is to create a singular vision for your business that helps you achieve your sustainability goals as a team through data sharing and shared resources.

    "ESM can be viewed as a strategic information management framework used by companies to standardize, consolidate, and centralize business processes to promote sustainability and business performance. Organizations are implementing ESM strategies to add a sustainable perspective into the product and process life cycle, which extends from the conception of the idea through disposal. When fully utilized, ESM acts as a platform for sharing cross-functional information and orchestrating cross-functional business processes."

    One of the ways LSN Research suggests business accomplish this is to hire a Chief Sustainability Officer whose job is to support and implement a comprehensive sustainability program. This system could even be built using all of the different ISO standards that are already adhered to across your business and making sure every department and aspect of your business follows the same set of standards.

    Another method for taking an ESM approach is to use a unified system of data management and sharing across your entire organization:

    "The benefits of a holistic, integrated, and streamlined information system to connect these areas are quickly bypassing the effectiveness of manual processes and proprietary solutions. Increasingly, market leading companies are adopting ESM strategies to manage operations."
    "Finally, for technology, companies should begin to phase out disparate processes and systems, looking into an implementation of a holistic ESM solution that connects across functional areas as well as all the way from assets, facilities, and production processes up to the enterprise layer."

    We've written in some of our own articles about why in-house EH&S data management solutions are no longer the best option for sustainability management purposes, as well as how a good EH&S IT system should be able to engage with shop-floor employees, environmental managers, and executives, all at once.

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    Alex Chamberlain
    Post by Alex Chamberlain
    November 2, 2012
    Alex Chamberlain is a writer for ERA Environmental Management Solutions.