Bright, Quick, & Flexible

By Kevin McAuliffe
March 23, 2007

In this day and age with articles about global warming, biodiversity loss and chemicals in the environment popping up almost daily in the media it has become apparent that all companies “small and large” now need to consider environmental issues in their management planning. The question for most is where to begin. My company, Newport Ltd., started this process over five years ago and through trial and error learned a number of lessons. For those just starting on the road to environmental sustainability I would recommend beginning with an environmental audit.

The word audit probably strikes fear into most business people because of the association with tax audits, but an environmental audit can be a very positive experience if approached in the correct way. Basically, an environmental audit is an audit of a business from an environmental point of view. In other words, looking at a company’s environmental impacts such as electricity use, paper use, and purchasing. For most companies in the service sector the environmental impacts are usually fairly straight forward but for those in manufacturing it can become much more complex. However, whatever the industry the basic approach is the same of identifying how a company through its day-to-day business impacts the environment.

Environmental audits can be performed internally with little training of staff or outsourced. My preference is to do it internally as this has important implications later when taking further steps such as establishing an environmental policy and developing environmental management projects. But whether doing it internally or outsourcing management of the project the process remains the same as have each division of the company look at how they impact the environment. Typical impacts are the following:

1. Electricity Use (Lighting, Heating/Cooling, Appliances and Office Equipment)
2. Paper Use
3. Water Usejapanese_river2
4. Purchases or Leases of Office Equipment and Furniture and Disposal of Same
5. Travel (both commute and business travel)
6. Environmental impacts of the Product or Service the Company manufacturers, markets, sells or otherwise delivers and any third party involvement in the process.
7. Office Waste

The environmental audit requires measuring and recording on a monthly, quarterly and yearly basis the various impacts. For electricity use it would be the monthly electricity bill measured in kilowatt hours. As this fluctuates throughout the year tracking for one year is an excellent way to understand the effect of seasons. For office purchases it could be a combination of the monthly actual numbers and prices of purchases and percentages of those that have some kind of eco rating.

Once the audit is complete and all environmental impacts have been examined and discussed then you are ready for the next step of writing an environmental policy and developing environmental management projects for the issues you discovered in the environmental audit. I will save this for a future article but by completing the environmental audit it will be much easier to move on to the next step.

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Mr. Kevin McAuliffe is the President of Newport Ltd. in Tokyo. He is leading the charge and making other executives think about how to really make their company environmentally friendly. AINEO thanks him for his Insights contribution and looks forward to making ourselves more green. More information on Newport Ltd and Newport’s work here