The SA Environment Protection Authority has adopted a number of initiatives to assist businesses with improving their environmental performance and minimise confusion. They are integrating their sustainability services with SA Water, Zero Waste SA and Department of Trade & Economic Development in an agreement to form the “Business Sustainability Alliance” (BSA) with an aim to provide a systematic and centralised service to business.
As businesses, particularly SMEs, are attempting to create and implement a full blown EMS in one step, they are highly likely to be thrown into confusion and the system will implode. A series of small steps improves the odds of success.
Businesses are encouraged to infuse a good environmental culture within their business by getting staff to formulate a simple documented environmental action plan using the “Ecomapping” process then to progress into developing more comprehensive systems.
The paper details how this has been applied through the use of an Ecomapping CD, environmental awareness breakfasts, the Environmental Improvers Program, the Resource Efficiency Assistance Program, sustainability agreements and accredited licences.
A brief overview is also given of sector specific programs including the Motor Trades Association, the wine industry and a special segment of applying Ecomapping principles into the aquaculture industry.
EMS, Ecomapping, sustainability, government services, Business Sustainability Alliance, industry
The South Australian Environment Protection Authority is the state’s primary environmental regulator who uses the Environment Protection Act 1993 to manage and mitigate polluting activities, mainly through the use of environmental authorisations (commonly referred to as licenses). This constitutes the EPA’s main focus with the remainder undertaking environmental monitoring or policy development for air, water, noise, waste, radiation and contaminated sites issues. There are only a few staff that have a educative role with businesses to assist them in being more resource efficient.
While licenses are issued with a series of mandatory conditions to ensure that the licensees are adequately managing their environmental risks, only a relatively small number of the 2,500 licenses are required to have an EMS. It has been found that those who do have an EMS still have compliance difficulties. The EPA generally requires under-performing businesses to create and implement an Environment Improvement Plan for their site as a mechanism to reform processes and practices that are of concern to the EPA. This tends to attack the heart of the issues rather than trying to add a greater level of complexity using management systems. For some companies who have a good track record and a certified EMS in place, the EPA can offer them an “accredited licence” with a 50% licence fee reduction which reflects the reduction in regulatory workload for the EPA. Currently there are only 2 accredited licences in existence in SA.
In recent times, the SA EPA has moved to adopt the concept behind the Victorian EPA’s “Corporate Licence” system which firstly agglomerates multiple site licences into one simple licence aimed at reducing red tape and administrative burden for everyone, and secondly, includes a voluntary “sustainability agreement” requiring a commitment to go “above and beyond” compliance. These sustainability agreements have the potential to incorporate the company’s EMS, sustainability reporting, community relations working groups on local issues, lifecycle assessment, greening the supply chain and extended producer responsibility issues. It is envisaged that this approach will acknowledge companies with a strong sustainability focus and be an incentive for others to aspire to improved environmental performance.
The move towards the promotion of corporate and accredited licences is seen as a merging of the EPA’s regulatory function with its educative role centred on improved resource efficiency. In fact the EPA has recognised that a number of other agencies also have overlapping roles in promoting the effective use of resources and that it is advantageous to collaborate with them to reduce duplication and make better use of all the government’s own resources. A Sustainable Business Practices report (2005) concluded that industry have significant concerns about the perceived lack of coordination arising from the fragmented delivery of government services and programs
To this end, the EPA has now integrated its resource efficiency function with similar functions in SA Water, Zero Waste SA and SA Centre for Innovation (part of Department of Trade & Economic Development) in an agreement to form the “Business Sustainability Alliance” with an aim to provide a systematic and centralised service to business
The BSA encourages cross agency support of each others existing programs, as well as collaboratively developing new services to meet identified needs. In addition, the BSA has created a “single-point-of-entry” website for sustainability services provided by government agencies to reduce the confusion by business operators who are seeking environmental information. The website not only links to the BSA agencies websites but to other state and federal government agencies.
One of the BSA’s main resource efficiency programs is the Resource Efficiency Assistance Program (REAP) which seeks to not only identify the deficiencies in a company’s business management system, including EMS, in becoming more sustainable using an internationally recognised benchmarking tool, but assists to apply appropriate training and mentoring for 18 months. REAP is particularly suited to companies who are well advanced in sustainability and wish to progress further.
For companies who have a basic environmental understanding and who want to create their own EMS, the BSA utilises the EPA’s Environment Improvers Program (EIP) which is delivered on their behalf by Business SA – one of South Australia’s leading business associations. Participants are taken through 5 half-day modules which provide the basic environmental framework as well as practical sessions on water, energy and waste, culminating in the development of their own EMS. Those completing the program receive a $250 subsidy from the EPA.
For most companies, particularly SMEs, it seems environmental issues and the need to have an EMS are well down their list of priorities with “business –threatening” issues such as diminishing markets, HR issues, cashflow issues, HR issues and OHS&W issues often taking priority. Even when a manager or business owner gets an opportunity to consider their environmental issues, they frequently do not have the technical expertise in these matters to progress these issues or to know how to start creating an EMS.
If they jump on the web, they are hit with a plethora of options, foreign terminology and often conflicting opinions, which for many is too confronting to consider for fear that it could cost an “arm and a leg” with the possibility of being “ripped-off” by some charlatan. At this point, other issues scream loudly in their head and they dismiss going any further as they don’t perceive themselves as a polluter.
It has been found that businesses who genuinely seek to put an EMS in place, particularly those needing to be certified, often pay significant amounts of money for an external company to formulate it on their behalf, which is then handed over to a nominated person to get the EMS in place as an additional task. This externally generated EMS is then bolted on to an existing organisation, usually with very little engagement and ownership from the staff and often results in the EMS inwardly imploding on itself and widespread confusion. Trying to get a certified EMS in place in one step seems to have a high risk of failure.
In Europe where the need for EMSs to meet ISO 14001 has been strongly advocated, similar experiences drove Heinz Werner-Engel to develop Ecomapping™ and ISO-Easy™.
The South Australian EPA was one of the first agencies in Australia to promote and apply Ecomapping freeware to SA businesses, as it was a simple visual system of engaging staff in identifying their environmental issues and developing an action plan.
The EPA has found that Ecomapping is an easy-to-use visual tool which enables SMEs to simply identifying environmental impacts, problems and practice. At the heart of the 10 step Ecomapping process is the creation of simple maps that easily visualises the origins of environmental impacts like noise, odour, waste storage, water and energy consumption, storage of hazardous products, risk of accidents and pollution.
As all employees are encouraged to assist with the Ecomapping of their work site, improvements are driven from the bottom –up and become embedded in the work culture. It gets everyone thinking about how they can reduce water and energy use, improve working conditions and minimise the wastage of materials. This opens up the opportunity for the business to be more profitable without having to increase sales. The outcome of the Ecomapping process is that all of the identified issues and potential improvements are prioritised into a list of actions linked to the person responsible for the action and the due date for completion. This basic EMS serves as proof of environmental due diligence and an excellent starting point to move forward into “ISO Easy” in 20 steps to ISO 14001.
In examining the best manner to raise the awareness of this simple approach to businesses, the EPA found that businesses appreciated practical instruction on simple resource efficiency principles and delivered in a short and convenient format. Businesses often consider invites to “free” sessions to be of low value and consequently given a low priority, while expensive seminars are more highly valued.
As business breakfasts have recently become popular, the EPA decided to conduct morning environmental awareness sessions with a combination of an informal approach, a hot breakfast at a stylish venue in close proximity of the city with easy parking and a practical exercise in applying learnt principles, along with a small entry fee. This approach has been highly successful with breakfast sessions being run monthly for 2 years.
Frequently business owners are overwhelmed with emails, phone calls, salesman selling the latest and greatest product as well as a multitude of electronic and hard copy documents from suppliers, government agencies and the internet. To impart the Ecomapping concept to business owners without being lost, deleted or thrown in the bin, the EPA chose to use short video clips rather than “just another document to read”.
The EPA produced a CD that contains a short introduction video clip and an 11 minute clip that steps through the Eco-mapping process based on a mechanics workshop. It also contains general information guides and some helpful templates of checklists and forms mentioned in the video.
The Motor Trade Association (MTA) in South Australia was one of the first industry associations to see the potential benefits of using Ecomapping for environmental management training of their 1000 members. The EPA worked with the MTA to develop an automotive specific checklist that could assist their members with Ecomapping. Interstate Motor Trade organisations also saw the potential in Ecomapping and were keen to adopt it as a national scheme as they all have tried using “text” based procedures with only limited uptake by the automotive businesses. To this end, the MTA in partnership with the Federal Government produced the guide which was incorporated into the Ecomapping CD.
The CD has been distributed to MTA members so that they can start preparing their environmental action plan using Ecomaps.
To improve the availability of the CD and to be more resource efficient, the content of the CD, including the video clips, has been placed on the BSA website (www.southaustralia.biz/bsa )
The simplicity and flexibility of Ecomapping is finding application in a diverse range of situations, such as manufacturers, wineries, printers, councils, hospitals, youth hostels, government departments, schools and the banking sector. In addition, Ecomapping is being used to teach environmental management in Universities and TAFE.
In most cases, companies are content to just to do the Ecomapping without any outside help and leave it at that. In other cases, companies like Taylors Wines in the Clare Valley, who have engaged a trained Ecomapping consultant to coach them through Ecomapping and the initial environmental plan, then all the way to an EMS compliant with ISO 14001. This “internally grown” system is strongly owned by the entire organisation and is the first company in Australia to achieve ISO 14001 certification for an EMS created using Ecomapping and ISO -Easy. For more information, please refer to Richard Furler’s paper on Taylor’s Wines.
The EPA supported the AHWR in adopting the Ecomapping, starting with a pilot team of twelve AHWR members, working together in cluster groups to develop a practical and simple EMS for their own individual sites. To assist the development of their individual EMS in a consistent manner, the AHWR created an spreadsheet based system to collate their Ecomaps and their action plans which is embedded in the members area of their website.
For more details on the use of Ecomapping by the AHWR, please refer to the paper by Andy Chambers
The use of EMS in the seafood industry is not a new concept. The benefits to the seafood industry in using EMS are considerable. International markets are starting to demand product that is environmentally accredited or certified and EMS may be used as a mechanism to achieve this outcome.
Seafood Services Australia (SSA) has established a suite of tools specifically designed to be used by the seafood industry i.e. both fisheries and aquaculture. While a number of industries have adopted the SSA Seafood EMS Chooser, the process still involves a significant amount of time, money and paperwork which may be beyond the capacity of many small aquaculture businesses that exist in SA. Hence Ecomapping may fill in the gaps and provide a mechanism for smaller aquaculture facilities (as well as larger ones) to be involved in managing their environment risks without having to use an EMS.
While the aquaculture industry in South Australia is licensed and managed by Primary Industry and Resources SA (PIRSA), the EPA plays a significant role in ensuring the industry operates in an environmentally sustainable manner. With the infusion of Ecomapping into other SA businesses, the Aquaculture group of the EPA took the opportunity to test out Ecomapping on the aquaculture industry. The process involved undertaking a workshop at an aquaculture facility, inviting a number of industry players, and walking them step by step through the Ecomapping procedure. The result was industry showing support for Ecomapping, stating they found the approach practical, relevant and easy to use. With the success of the inaugural workshop, the EPA is keen to run a number of other workshops in key aquaculture areas. The EPA would also like to encourage the use of Ecomapping as a component of environmental monitoring that is required by PIRSA to be undertaken by industry. The benefits this approach would provide is threefold - providing industry with a process to demonstrate reasonable and practicable measures to minimise environmental harm under EPA legislation, meeting the environmental monitoring requirements of PIRSA Aquaculture legislation and provide a stepping stone in undertaking EMS on a larger scale and potentially seeking environmental accreditation/certification.
Adelaide Hills Wine Region website: http://www.adelaidehillswine.com.au/
Business Sustainability Alliance website: www.southaustralia.biz/bsa
Sustainable Business Practices Pty Ltd (2005). Sustainable Industries Project – Summary Report – prepared for the SA Department of Trade & Economic Development and SA Department of Environment & Heritage