From: GreenBiz
Published March 3, 2009 08:45 AM

Tracing and Tracking a Sustainability Footprint

There is much talk about footprints these days. Many companies are creating carbon footprints to monitor their greenhouse gas emissions. Because of severe droughts, there has also been a lot of interest in water footprints. The very concept of a footprint creates a visualization of the issue that enables leaders and stakeholders to literally "see" what is happening. For a long time, people preparing ISO 14001 management systems have used a footprint to make sure that all of the environmental "aspects" are found. After all, there are a lot of activities associated with each of the products and services. Each of these activities uses and loses resources. The resource intensity and resource productivity of these activities was the subject of my previous blog.


Using this concept of a footprint, let's see if it is possible to capture all of the aspects of a sustainability program at the facility level. You might wonder how it can be done since there are no international management system standards for sustainability. It turns out that British Standards has a sustainable development standard, BS 8900. Australian Standards has a corporate social responsibility standard, AS 8003-2003. The International Organization for Standardization is completing its work on a social responsibility standard, ISO 26000. On the economic side, there is Section 404 of the Sarbanes Oxley Act. This section helps establish a system to manage the internal control for financial reporting. The COSO standard provides more detail for financial and operational risk management. So if we add the environmental, health & safety and the quality management standards, we could have a fully operational triple bottom line sustainability management system. 

Let's assume that you currently have some combination of quality, environmental and health and safety management systems in place. To create a footprint, you will first need to list all of the product and services at the facility. Next, you must understand the core processes associated with these products and services. The steps in the process help you define all of the "activities." Now you have your activities, products and services as required in the management system standards.

You can visualize the activities using hierarchical process maps. Once you have the process maps with the activities in your core processes, you will need to define each of the supporting processes. Be sure that you do not get too detailed here. I check the activities against the work instructions or standard operating procedures that are already in place. The process maps will place these in a visual presentation and be linked to these important documents. 

Each activity will use and lose resources (ISO 14001 calls these "aspects"). Each activity will have a set of hazards associated with it and there may be a number of quality issues that can be caused by that activity. Stakeholders may have an "interest" in the activity especially if should something go wrong with the process. For the employees, having a problem may be a consequence of not following the procedures. Consequence thinking is a key to avoiding problems with the process.

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