How to Benchmark Environmental Performance

Previous blogs have discussed the advantages of carrying out environmental audits and conducting pollution risk management across multiple sites (read them here and here).  When carrying out audits, especially over multiple sites, it can be useful to use benchmarking tools to compare environmental performance over time and/ or across sites.  This blog will explain how you can use audits to benchmark environmental performance.

Decide what to benchmark

For fair comparison, you will need to decide what you are going to assess, e.g. pollution risk, legal compliance or ISO 14001 compliance (the international standard for Environmental Management Systems).  You can audit one particular area, or combine more than one type of audit, but you need to ensure that the scope of your audits are consistent across time or multiple sites.

Once you have confirmed the scope, you should come up with a template that can be used for every audit and site for checking compliance against your selected standard(s).  There should be structured questions that cover everything you want to check, but are flexible enough to cover different circumstances over multiple sites.

Create a scoring system

Once you have your audit template of questions, you can decide on a scoring system to make benchmarking possible.   On a basic level, for each question, you could score it as compliant or non-compliant.  For more complex scoring systems, you could use a points system and you may want to consider giving more critical compliance items a heavier scoring to reflect their importance.  You can also decide circumstances under which a question receives all of the marks available or whether they can be attributed a proportion.  You can then compare scores or percentages for compliance.  If your template is split up into sections, you could also score individual areas to determine where sites are compliant or not specifically.

Be objective

When carrying out audits, it is important to be as impartial as possible so benchmarking is fair and informative.  When creating your template, it helps to make it as objective as possible and clear about what is being asked so interpretation is kept to a minimum.  If you have multiple auditors, it can help to discuss scoring and interpretation to help ensure consistency.

Create a league table

When sites have been audited, it can be helpful to create a league table to give you a visual representation of site performance.  You can create a table based on overall performance and also include section specific performance if your scoring system includes this.  You can use this to determine sites and areas that may need additional support to encourage compliance and track compliance over time.

Environmental auditing information can be used to benchmark performance across sites or over time to demonstrate improvement (or not!).  When benchmarking, it is important to be consistent and objective and ensure that the scoring system is fair and transparent.  Benchmarking can be used to provide support and identify sites that consistently struggle with compliance.