Measuring Environmental Performance: A Primer and Survey of Metrics in Use
Measuring Environmental Performance: A Primer and Survey of Metrics in Use is designed to present a survey of environmental performance measurement tools, or metrics, and includes considerations for designing a metrics program and selecting appropriate metrics, as well as for implementing, evaluating and improving such a program.
Selecting meaningful and effective tools for measuring environmental performance is becoming increasingly important due to the increasing costs of environmental operations; market, regulatory and public pressures; voluntary initiatives, such as the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Business Principles for Sustainable Development; and international standards, such as the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 14001.
Metrics can measure the business value of environmental programs or progress as well as the environmental performance of business operations. This can be particularly effective in demonstrating the value of environmental efforts to management. It can also provide data with which business units can design more efficient processes, decreasing material usage and environmental impacts while at the same time increasing yield and profitability.
During early 1996, the GEMI Metrics Work Group surveyed members on their environmental performance measurement systems. The survey revealed a variety of metrics in use by member companies and interest in improving tools for measuring environmental performance. As a result, GEMI decided that a primer discussing the considerations for designing a metrics program and a compilation of indicators would be a helpful aid to GEMI and non-GEMI companies.
The purpose of Measuring Environmental Performance: A Primer and Survey of Metrics in Use is to present a survey of environmental performance measurement tools (or “metrics”) and present considerations for designing a metrics program; selecting appropriate metrics; and for implementing, evaluating and improving such a program. This Primer is directed to large companies wishing to compare or improve their programs, as well as smaller companies seeking to establish a program for the first time. Because a metrics program must be responsive to industry and company-specific cultures and concerns, this primer does not present a recommended program to be used by any company. Instead, it identifies the considerations that a company should address, suggests a process for developing an effective metrics program, and provides case studies (examples) in order to assist companies and organizations in developing or enhancing their systems.
The first chapter is a survey of metrics for measuring environmental performance that are currently in use. Key concepts are defined and explained, and the advantages and limitations of various metrics are discussed. Chapter 2 presents considerations for selecting, designing, implementing, evaluating and improving a metrics program. The chapter is divided into four sections that parallel the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle format, presented in the 1992 GEMI Total Quality Environmental Management Primer, forms the basis for total quality environmental management. Chapter 3 presents a brief discussion of emerging trends in environmental performance measurement. The appendices contain studies of some exemplary GEMI and non-GEMI metrics programs.