The Resource rss

Helping communities and businesses access compliance, technical and financial assistance for their environmental needs.

Start and Build a Sustainability Program

There are many ways to build a sustainability program. Each organization needs to find the path that works for them, but here are some common themes your program can follow.

Establish top management support and set priorities and goals. Support and direction from your top management are critical to developing and implementing successful sustainability activities. Your organization’s policies and goals can help demonstrate to staff a commitment to a sustainability program. Measuring progress toward meeting your goals can help drive a successful program.

Involve employees. Organizations with employee involvement are more successful than those without. Create a cross-functional team with members from different parts of your facility and at different levels of management and empower them to identify and implement sustainability activities. A sustainability coordinator can head-up the team.Innovative solutions may come from people not familiar with processes, and questions from individuals that don’t already know the answers. Upper management support is critical for your team’s success.

Determine what wastes are generated and calculate the cost. Identify all sources of waste from your operations and calculate a waste’s full cost. Include purchase (raw material), treatment, disposal, compliance and other related costs. Allocate these costs to specific processes, operations or departments; not overhead. Communicate these waste costs to staff. Focus efforts on wastes that are most costly and difficult to manage.

Conduct periodic sustainability assessments and identify waste prevention measures. Using a team approach, review your operations and processes to identify where waste is generated. Then, identify specific source reduction and recycling ideas. Consider using process mapping, visual representations of the inputs and outputs, materials accounting, cause-effect analysis and brainstorming to better understand the inefficiencies of material and energy use in your processes. Implement those ideas that are economically and technically feasible. Consider using savings achieved to support new projects.

Measure results and continuously improve. Measure the results of your sustainability activities and goals through money saved and pounds of pollution prevented (solid waste, water, energy, etc.). Document and publicize these successes to your employees, customers, vendors (suppliers), community and regulatory officials. Evaluate your sustainability activities and implement changes to policies, goals and program activities to ensure continuous improvement. Start small and build on earlier successes.

Take advantage of available resources. There are many resources available to help your organization’s sustainability efforts. Your trade associations, competitors, sustainability websites and articles and Ohio EPA’s Office of Compliance Assistance and Pollution Prevention (OCAPP) are examples of resources available to strengthen your sustainability program. You can call OCAPP’s toll-free hotline at: (800) 329-7518 with more questions.