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By Pauline Chen

Many companies face the recurring responsibility of reporting on and abiding by strict environmental compliance regulations that govern the storage, use and disposal of hazardous chemicals. For compliance reports, requirements and processes are particularly tedious and mundane—this is especially true for organizations reporting on facilities across various states.

Also consider that compliance reporting has long involved a series of manual and labor-intensive tasks that can take valuable time and effort away from other vital compliance program operations. Not to mention, EHS managers often rely on facility frontliners for data, many of whom do not have deep environmental compliance knowledge. Fortunately, organizations can now streamline their compliance processes using modern environmental compliance software.

However, searching for technology solutions, companies must find the right balance—considering a tool for end-users that enhances operations, yet enables a swift risk management process. While accurate and timely Tier II reporting is necessary to maintain environmental compliance—required by the EPA to track and enforce rules related to storing hazardous materials—compliance reporting within organizations often tends to encounter common challenges that restrict the ability for efficient and effective reporting efforts.

Following are three of the most prominent challenges compliance teams face, and how implementing new technologies can address these to avoid non-compliance.

#1: Inadequate Visibility into Data from Siloed Information Sources
Within a regulated organization, data for compliance reporting can live in spreadsheets, in-house information systems, e-mails and other sources that are not centralized. Data can also originate from an executive level, operational level, as well as from multiple individual facilities. In other words, information is siloed and not as visible as it should be to all parties who need it for reporting preparation.

While limiting the number of individuals involved in environmental compliance reporting is great for accountability and eliminating confusion caused by too many hands on one report, limiting the visibility of critical information amongst individuals can also cause severe compliance issues. For example, persons in charge of hazardous material removal efforts may be unable to answer questions or access additional information necessary to ensure compliance throughout a company.

Another issue companies face with siloed information is the inability to ensure compliance of facilities across various states. While one facility may be compliant with their respective state’s Tier II reporting requirements, another facility in a different state with distinct requirements may not be. When it comes to federally-mandated reports, a lack of visibility becomes detrimental to the employees’ time and effort, as well as posing a risk of high-cost penalties and fines for companies unable to maintain compliance throughout both federal and state regulations. A lack of visibility or institutional knowledge of the correct data can put a business at risk of non-compliance.

Luckily, companies can turn to solutions providing a centralized location for all necessary information to combat this issue. In researching a potential solution, look for an end-to-end environmental compliance platform that lets your business manage all compliance information in one place. A well-matched solution should additionally provide the ability to readily locate and access data as well as assign specific compliance tasks to individuals. By implementing a solution that acts as a singular data source for every facility and all users,
everyone involved in reporting can see where a report stands and who is doing what in the process. Technology reduces the challenge of siloing information in an inbox or spreadsheet. Instead, it drives data visibility along with open communication and validation.

#2: Lack of Commitment to the Software
Implementing new technology does not happen overnight. Enacting technology solutions into environmental compliance reporting requires a long-term commitment for success. However, many companies simply struggle to successfully implement technology into their everyday workflows when there is a lack of commitment to technology adoption right from the start. Implementing tools for intricate processes like Tier II reporting takes time and planning to standardize reporting processes, adjust workflows, integrate tools with other software and ensure successful end-user adoption before the organization can fully execute.

Putting technology adoption at the forefront of change management efforts is crucial for successfully using tools in new workflow processes. Companies must start with buy-in from leadership, managers and employees to achieve success. Without a full-fledged commitment to implementing new tools, businesses are wasting valuable time and resources, and duplicating efforts. By whole-heartedly committing to the implementation of technology from day one, organizations can save their teams time and effort on reporting. This includes saving time on pulling previous reports, updating current hazardous chemical inventories, and downloading necessary insights and metrics from reporting actions to be used in other business areas, such as enhancing sustainability efforts.

#3: Human Resistance of Changing Workflows
Implementing software inherently changes the way people accomplish tasks. For years, workers who have overseen environmental compliance have spent their time creating and maintaining a never-ending spreadsheet of compliance data. While this formatting makes sense to the tenured employee who has been maintaining ownership on the same process for years, it is not friendly to new employees who miss out on obtaining institutional knowledge. One of the biggest challenges organizations face in adopting technology is an
employee’s resistance to change.

By streamlining reporting through new tools, employees must learn how to use the software, then implement it into their already-determined workflows. While this sounds like a simple switch, the concept of altering what has “worked” for years can cause resistance from some employees. Often, a change that seems “simple” can cause misinterpretation that technology duplicates workload rather than eliminating it.
To help eliminate or mitigate employees’ resistance, here are some ways to start:
• Prioritize EHS compliance problems needing solutions and ensure executive buy-in is established and supported.
• Tailor innovative solutions to solve the most challenging issues, providing a plan of action for implementing change and thebenefits.
• Aim for quick wins at the forefront of adoption to ensure value is being delivered upfront. An example of this is sharing a better way to collect and share data without spreadsheets.
• Build out an action plan to drive and measure improvements. Environmental compliance software can help improve these measurements from the start, including measuring time saved on reporting and more.
• Estimate the timeline for the process of transformation. Will the implementation take a year to be fully adopted or will it take less? Let workers know what timeline they can expect before a change is complete.

Working in highly regulated industries, such as waste management, requires detailed reporting and visibility into the right data at the right time. This is key in keeping businesses from being at risk of non-compliance. Coupling the risk of non-compliance with expensive penalties and reputational damage, there is no room for error in reporting efforts. Digital transformation has become even more crucial for companies to deliver compliance data and ensure their employees are best suited to meet these reporting requirements. Business leaders can implement environmental compliance software efficiently and effectively by facing and addressing these common challenges. | WA

As Head of Product at Encamp, Pauline Chen works with the company’s Engineering, Customer Success, and Compliance teams to continually innovate the enterprise technology system for environmental compliance management and reporting. She also guides the overall development and continuous improvement of Encamp’s platform, all with the aim of ensuring a consistent, intuitive user experience. During a career that started in 2004, she has served in roles from senior manager professional services, CX Strategy & Operations, to senior product manager of modern compliance solutions. For more information, visit