BSBSUS401 – Investigate Current Practices in Relation to Resource Usage Copy
Element 1:Investigate Current Practices in Relation to Resource Usage
Performance Criteria Element 1
1.1 Identify environmental regulations applying to the enterprise
1.2 Analyse procedures for assessing compliance with environmental/ sustainability regulations
1.3 Collect information on environmental and resource efficiency systems and procedures, and provide to the work group where appropriate
1.4 Collect, analyse and organise information from a range of sources to provide information/advice and tools/resources for improvement opportunities
1.5 Measure and document current resource usage of members of the work group
1.6 Analyse and document current purchasing strategies
1.7 Analyse current work processes to access information and data to assist in identifying areas for improvement.
Investigate Current Practices in Relation to Resource Usage
Identify Environmental Regulations Applying to the Enterprise
All organisations have some impact on the environment. Office-based organisations use considerable amounts of paper and office consumables; consume large amounts of electricity and gas for lighting, heating and cooling and travel many kilometres by road and air.
Sustainability can be an idea, a property of living systems, a manufacturing method or a way of life. There may be as many definitions of sustainability as people are trying to define it. However, most definitions include:
• Living within the limits of what the environment can provide
• Understanding the many interconnections between economy, society and the environment
• The equal distribution of resources and opportunities.
Many businesses and government agencies are now beginning to examine the impacts that their day-to-day operations have on the environment and identify ways to reduce these impacts.
The current Australian Government policy on the usage of environmental management systems is that government agencies are encouraged to develop and implement an environmental management system for at least one of their sites.
There are many different laws relating to various industries and states. The government website, http://www.business.gov.au/, is an excellent place to start. Under the Advice and Support tab / Directory, you will find the Directory of Government and Business Associations where you can search environmental legislation for industries, national and state.
In business and our personal lives, we have a responsibility to meet the law, by-laws and regulations or best practice and codes of practice. One act is the Environmental Protection or Biodiversity Conservation Act.
The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) is the Australian Government’s key piece of environmental legislation which commenced 16 July 2000. The EPBC Act enables the Australian Government to join with the states and territories in providing a truly national scheme of environment and heritage protection and biodiversity conservation. It focuses on Australian Government interests on the security of matters of national environmental significance, with the states and territories having responsibility for matters of state and local significance.
A Google search for ‘international environmental protection laws’ will reveal several sites where specific information can be accessed about these laws. A similar search can be made to find commonwealth, state/territory, industry and organisational laws.
The best advice is to establish an Environmental Management System (EMS). Implementation of an EMS involves an organisation taking the following steps:
• Devise a policy that articulates the organisations environmental commitments
• Appoint an environmental manager or management team responsible for the ongoing coordination of the EMS
• Identify the organisation’s significant environmental aspects
• Identify legislative and regulative requirements relevant to the organisations environmental aspects
• Establish environmental objectives and targets
• Implement programs to achieve those objectives and targets
• Monitor and measure progress towards achieving those objectives and targets
• Take steps to continually improve the effectiveness and efficiency of environmental management
• Strategically review the continuing effectiveness of environmental management within the organisation.
Many of these areas will be covered as we progress through this Manual.
Analyse Procedures for Assessing Compliance with Environmental/Sustainability Regulations
Establishing Your Resource Use
To develop an effective EMS, you need to have in place a compelling set of tools for evaluating the impacts that your organisation is having on the environment around you. This can be done by categorising your business processes, organisational specifications, regulatory sources, relevant stakeholders and resource use in the areas of work that you undertake.
Think about steps such as:
• Reception of materials used in production
• Storage of these materials
• Process of transforming raw materials into finished goods
• Cleaning up after production
• Getting rid of waste
• Administrative work
Now that you have a list of the activities that you undertake during the ordinary course of your operations, you can develop a process map. This will outline the activities that you undertake and then analyse these activities and their place within the overall structure of your organisation. These maps will allow you to attempt to determine where your processes have significant impacts on the environment.
Identifying Inputs and Outputs
Now that you have an idea of the processes that you undertake and how they impact on you, you can look at the inputs and outputs of your system. This should be conducted for each process map section to get a good idea of what is being used and what is being produced. These may each have an impact on overall environmental performance.
Identify the Environmental Aspects
Now, we get to the meat of the problem, identifying the impacts that your organisation has on the environment. Use your process mapping exercise and your inputs and outputs to attempt to draw these impacts out. Next, you will identify the environmental aspects associated with each input and output. The following table may be of some use to you when identifying these impacts.
|What to consider when identifying environmental aspects of a particular activity|
|Can it interact (beneficially or harmfully) with anything in the environment?|
|Can it be toxic or hazardous to humans or anything in the environment?|
|Does it use natural resources?|
|How is it disposed of?|
|If a product, how will it be used and disposed of by the consumer?|
Identify Your Legal and Other Requirements
Every organisation is also likely to be impacted by environmental legislation and regulation. These requirements placed on business operations need to be carefully considered in order to establish where further problems may lie.
Wherever you can identify areas where you may be impacted on by regulation, you need to establish how these impact the business processes that you undertake.
The various steps that we have taken you through thus far will have identified the environmental aspects of your business, which are those areas of your operations that may have a significant impact on the environment. Once you have identified these aspects, you then need to consider the priority of each of these aspects. This should allow you to ascertain which of the aspects are most important to your organisation and which ones can be worked on at a later date depending on the severity of the impact that they could potentially cause.
The prioritisation process is critical, as
Collect Information on Environmental and Resource Efficiency Systems and Procedures, and Provide to the Work Group where Appropriate
Collect, Analyse and Organise Information from a Range of Sources to Provide Information/Advice and Tools/Resources for Improvement Opportunities
Measure and Document Current Resource Usage of Members of the Work Group
The prioritisation process is critical, as you will find that not all your environmental aspects will actually produce impacts that are significant. An excellent method to follow for this is
1. Rank Each of the Aspects Against a series of Established Criteria
Then you can determine which are the most important (examples of criteria may include waste materials, toxic waste release etc.)
2. Based on the Established Criteria Select Aspects to be Prioritised
You may use rankings based on the benefits of making changes, the feasibility of the changes you are proposing and the like. Think about the types of advantages you will note, do you want to focus on how you will improve employee health, or how you will emit less pollution etc.
3. For Each Criterion Identified as Important, Set Objectives to be achieved.
This may involve using your intuition as to what you can achieve and what cannot be achieved.
The selection criteria that you establish will be based on various factors which may include:
|Determining the aspects that will allow you to ensure that you meet with regulations in the environment and regarding legislation as being critical|
|Whether the improvements will lead to cost savings|
|Whether there are concerns that the customer base may have|
|Whether the achievement is easy, which may allow you to show that changes will lead to improvement for sceptical staff|
|Whether aspects will allow you to improve the health and safety of your staff|
|Whether the community around your organisation has concerns with pollution etc|
|Whether the chemicals and other supplies that you have on-site are particularly problematic and need a better solution|
|Whether there are changes in the way that you are doing things, or whether there are specific changes that need to be made, to meet certification requirements|
|Whether the resources that you have could be used in a more effective or efficient way.|
Using Environmental Risk Information to Rank Your Environmental Aspects
In order to establish where the major issues lie within your organisation, it is important that you undertake a robust risk analysis of the various environmental impacts that your organisation has on the environment at large – in particular, you should examine:
• Chemicals that you are using
• Safety equipment that is in place
• Healthy working conditions being present
• Keeping your neighbours protected.
We will be investigating risk in broad terms in this section, and then we will look at:
• Determining effects
• Ranking risks.
A risk is defined as a situation, problem or activity that would have an impact on the progress of a program, sub-program or project if it were to actually happen. Risk is a natural part of all businesses, and in order for you to manage it effectively, it is important that you have a management program in place. A risk management plan is a plan aimed at attempting to build a picture of the types of events which could occur, unexpectedly, within your organisation. These events will often occur at the worst possible time, so you need to be sure that you have contingency plans in place for any such event, and that your staff are aware of what they need to do when each of these events actually occurs. These surprise events could be anything from a robbery, to a natural disaster, to your suppliers being forced to shut down.
In essence, there are two major parts of ‘Risk’ that need to be evaluated when dealing with environmental impacts. These are:
1. The Toxicity of the Effect
That is, how potentially damaging is the risk. Put simply – this is about determining the effects of each aspect based on how serious the effects of that impact are.
The next part of risk examines how much of the aspect the individual worker, or animal or building or whatever are actually exposed to, how much they come into contact with the aspect. This is in turn broken down into three major components:
• Severity of Contact
The amount of contact that you will have with the aspect that you are concerned with.
• Length of Contact
The actual length of time you are exposed for.
• Pathway for Exposure
What method of exposure you are presented with.
Risks associated with environmental are likely to be chemicals so the major pathways for exposure that you need to consider are:
Now that you have all this information – you need to take one further step and rank the impact of the aspect based on this information that you have gathered. Some of the information that you will need to gather here needs to be based on the information you need to find from other sources. There is no single reference point for this data, unfortunately, so you may need to refer to multiple sources in order to fully understand the impact of the materials that you are using in your processes.
Some examples of sources that you could use in gathering this data include:
• Manufacturer’s Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs)
This documentation is generally supplied by the manufacturer of the material or chemical that you are using. You should receive these from your supplier and need to ensure these are stored in an easily accessible location. You can also access these on manufacturer’s websites.
• Your Suppliers
They should be able to supply you with any information that you may need. Technical support lines for the chemical manufacturers may also be able to supply you with technical information, should you require it.
• Your industry association and clients may also have some useful information to share with you.
When analysing exposure, we have already outlined the importance of looking at:
• Length of exposure
• Amount of exposure
• Method of exposure.
However, it is also important to determine the effect of long-term exposure. Often you may find that exposure is not immediate, rather it occurs after a given length of time with it leaching out of a product or some such method occurring. In these cases, look beyond the immediate at the longer-term effects.
• Severity (Quantity)
Exposure can be quite difficult to determine. How much is too much is a critical question. Look at:
○ How much of a resource is actually used
○ What level of concentration the exposure is likely to be at.
• Exposure Time
After you have determined the amount of exposure, you can begin looking at the length of time the exposure is for. Critical questions to consider are:
○ How often the chemical is used
○ How long it is used for
○ Whether the quantity varies over time
• Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Then consider the type of protective equipment you have at your disposal and how this mitigates the effects of what you have determined to be the exposure rate. Such equipment might include:
○ Breathing masks
○ Eye protectors
If you are using these, remember that they will have a major effect on the actual level of exposure. The more that you use, the less the exposure is likely to be. Also, consider what might happen in the event of a failure.
Ranking Your Significant Environmental Aspects
You are now in a position to determine the ranking for your various environmental impacts based on the various pieces of information that you have gathered. Some
considerations you should make are:
• Regulatory Concerns
Rank each aspect against the fact that there could be a regulatory reason for its
existence. Look at:
○ Whether you are exempt from regulation
○ Whether the regulation is low in terms of impact on operations
○ The ease of maintaining compliance
○ The cost of maintaining compliance
• Other Community Issues
Where you are based in a large community who are close by, you also need to consider how they are likely to be impacted by what is going on. Consider:
○ Increased traffic.
• Natural Resources
Finally, examine how each impacts on natural resources such as:
○ Energy use
○ Carbon emissions
Each of these is likely to play a considerable role in your decision making. Where you can identify issues as being significant, be sure that you rank these for addressing
Analyse and Document Current Purchasing Strategies
Analyse Current Work Processes to Access Information and Data to Assist in Identifying Areas for Improvement
There are actions that can be taken to help organisations create and implement an Environmentally Preferable Plan (EPP).
1. Understand What Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Is
EPP’s are products and services that have a lesser or reduced effect on human health and the environment when compared to competing products or services that serve the same purpose.
2. Know What Attributes Are Important To Consider
EPP’s may include, but not be limited to, items that:
• Contain recycled materials that are made from sustainable resources, recycled or remanufactured materials or parts
• Minimise waste through minimal packaging that is recyclable or reusable (take-back provisions)
• Conserve energy and/or water or other natural resources
• Prevent pollution such as emissions, VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds), etc.
• Consist of fewer toxic substances or reduce the number of toxic substances disposed of or consumed
• Protect open-space
• Encourage an environmentally positive practice (water fountains, compost bins, recycling containers, engine block heaters, etc.)
• Uses energy alternatives to fossil fuel
• Influencing suppliers to take up environmental sustainability approaches
• Researching and participating in programs such as a supply chain program to purchase sustainable products.
All of these attributes add up to the increased quality of human health, planetary health and economic health.
3. Identify Key Participants in the EPP
Participation from a host of various stakeholders is necessary to maximise the success of any green purchasing program; the reason being that the greater the demand for these goods and services, the greater the incentive for industry to respond and provide them. In addition, the greater the competition among industry players, the more competitive pricing for items becomes for all levels of buyers.
Below are the key participants to consider:
• Individuals and groups both inside and outside the organisation who have a direct or indirect interest in the organisation’s conduct, actions, products and services, including:
○ Employees at all levels of the organisation
○ Local community
○ Other organisations
○ Key personnel within the organisation, and specialists outside the organisation who may have particular technical expertise.
4. Identify and Overcome Challenges
All organisations are different and there is no one path towards sustainability; while one organisation may choose to focus on energy management, another may see an opportunity in setting up an effective recycling program. Nevertheless, regardless of the environmental initiatives they choose to pursue, most organisations face very similar issues:
• Additional work needed to research products, plan and co-ordinate green purchasing programs and implement sustainability efforts.
• Lack of commitment or interest from upper management to provide the directives necessary for a more efficient implementation. Possible resistance from co-workers due to the unavailability or lack of staff education and training.
• Lack of expertise in environmental issues and new technologies, particularly those involving technical data reporting and analysis.
• Conflicting or confusing information that may create misconceptions about the quality and performance of environmentally preferable products and services, coupled with a shortage of available time to perform necessary research and investigation.
• The effort required to change the “business as usual” norm and work with existing suppliers (or to find new suppliers) in order to procure environmentally preferable products and services; there may also be existing relationships between purchasers and suppliers that make it difficult to switch to alternative products.
• Difficulty in determining the life-cycle cost of products that considers the manufacturing impacts, potential cost savings opportunities in the operational and maintenance life of the product as well as the expense and process necessary to dispose or recycle the product.
5. Measuring and Marketing Your Success
As part of the largest procurement group in the nation (representing over 20% of the Gross National Product (GNP)) federal, state and local governments can use the clout of their buying practices to direct industry manufacturers towards making more responsible products that are reasonably priced and do less harm to the environment and public health.
Many forward-thinking businesses have already adopted environmental purchasing policies for traditional reasons such as:
• Recognising market preferences and stepping up to serve customers asking for EPP’s
• Understanding that it can distinguish a business and its products from competitors
• Recognising the opportunity to increase operating efficiency
• Joining an industry or international market trend to capture market share
• Improving compliance with environmental regulations.
- When establishing your resource use, begin by identifying the typical flows in and out of your organisation in terms of the various processes that take place.
- You should then identify any legal or regulatory requirements that govern your workplace.
- Risk should be the major determinant of how you assess the inputs and outputs within your organisation.
- Current resource use and your purchasing strategies (in terms of what and how you buy) should also be assessed.