Our CEO and Co-Founder Luke Jacobs is no stranger to the complexities of environmental compliance. Even with advancements in digital technology, navigating the path to digital transformation for environmental compliance is still harder than it needs to be. There’s no playbook and seemingly not enough time nor support.
As the state of compliance continues to evolve, so do the complexities of regulations that enterprises must follow. By proactively building a strong compliance foundation with the help of digital transformation, industry leading organizations will be better equipped to meet the future and successfully adapt to change.
Watch this webinar to get an expert insight into the role of digital technology in the current and future state of environmental compliance. Join Encamp’s Luke Jacobs and Brandon Barlow as they discuss the complexities of environmental compliance and how it’s shaping the future of the EHS industry, especially with regards to evolving regulations and scalability. In addition, you will gain insights on the 5 important steps to take while automating and standardizing compliance reporting processes with high-tech solutions and high-touch expert support.
Here are some key insights Luke shared during the webinar:
The Current State of Environmental Digital Transformation
When I was getting into this space working as a consultant, something that became very clear as I was looking around and working with these large companies is that it is very challenging to actually maintain compliance for really even a single location. That complexity really does scale as you have more and more locations in more and more different states. I found that there were a lot of different tools but there’s still really no playbook for how companies and how environmental professionals can start thinking about really leveraging technology. I think it’s actually now in 2022 that a real inflection point has been met where the environmental space is rapidly getting more digital and I think it is really from the from the desire of the professionals themselves to level up their tools and really be a stakeholder in the modern business where an environmental professional should have the same level of sophistication and automation in their tech stack as a finance professional or a sales professional.
The Need for Digital Transformation
Digital transformation and digital maturity for organizations is increasingly relevant. If you are not thinking about how you are going to digitally transform your organization and your processes over the coming year, you are likely going to be behind the eight ball maybe not immediately but really in 2025 or 2030, these are trends that are rapidly picking up and I think have really strong tailwinds as organizations are trying to move forward with this. The main takeaway is that digital transformation is very important and also if it’s not done well, it is hard to actually get value from any of your digital processes so you also need to be thinking about it systematically.
The Math of Compliance
I would really kind of describe this in a very mathematical sense. It is facilities across different jurisdictions that have requirements based on their operations all of that put together really does give you a picture of your compliance surface area and the complexity that you’re actually going to be managing. A facility in Indiana and a facility in Illinois which are 50 miles away from each other might do similar things and will have really concrete differences in their compliance requirements, what data needs to be collected, when it needs to be collected, and then the method that you actually need to submit to the various regulators.
What we’re trying to do with Encamp and what we want to do with digital transformation, is map each of these components that go into this function to provide environmental professionals this unified view where they can see data, at what locations, and how to make sure that they’re collecting it correctly. One of the things we really specialize in at Encamp is the future of how environmental reporting in particular works by focusing on reporting automation. If I’ve already collected the data and it’s in a structured format for a report, being able to hit a button and have that data get transacted accurately and in the right way to the right regulators.
5 Steps of Environmental Digital Transformation
1. Establishing a compliance foundation
The first step is really gathering that data and getting that centralized in one location. This is often one of the bigger initial tasks as you’re thinking about digital transformation because it really is compounded in terms of its value to the professional. It starts with getting all the information in one place.
2. Maintaining a continuous data collection process
Once you have your facilities, then you want to start setting up your data pipelines. This is really just a fancy way of saying what data needs to get added to that facility record and how frequently it needs to get added.
3. Automating updates & notifications
Now since you’re tracking it in one location you are able to essentially see if any of that data is precipitating a change that is going to require a sort of compliance notification update, maybe a re-notification if there’s been a material change. An example of this is generator status for hazardous waste facilities. If you’re producing hazardous waste every month and you’re an SQG, and then you trigger and become an LQG because you produce more waste, that requires filing a notification to the EPA, and most likely to your state regulators. If you’re not tracking that data with continuous data collection, it’s hard to necessarily know if you have crossed the threshold. It gets flagged and you are easily able to see that this has happened and I need to be able to take necessary action.
4. Automating compliance reporting
There is a way to automate actually sending off that information to the regulator and this all gets rolled back into your facility profile. Because everything is building onto that facility record the end of this really is then automating your compliance reporting. If you have set up all your facilities, you’re collecting the right data every month, you’re basically closing the books so to speak on that facility every month for each of its program areas. Anytime there’s a change
throughout the year, you are filing that kind of inter notification between these periods of compliance reporting. With all that information really unified in one system for each facility, you have the capability to actually start looking at automating that so that the regulators can get that information in a timely manner in a consistent manner and you can achieve peace of mind to know that it’s just been done properly and on time and that you have a record that is actually auditable.
4. Unifying compliance programs
The long-term goal is to really unify your whole process. I think that it’s a wise strategy to be thoughtful and iterative and then make sure that you continue to move through it because the outcomes are really so worth it.
What is Guided Environmental Compliance?
Our compliance architects who are involved along with our Account Executives as we get involved with the customer to really understand the state of the data they start mapping the facilities, start connecting data pipelines. Once the data pipelines are there, that’s when you start getting these monthly statements. Now you’re tracking the information, you have the ability to start automating off these notifications and any reports. Then really it’s always building towards each annual cycle for a given regulatory program area.
Reporting Automation for Environmental Compliance
We’re an environmental data company that’s really focused on last mile reporting automation and documentation. What this means is that for all of the systems that you may use, there are other systems that are great for kind of containing information but then there is this continual challenge of once you have that information you’re not actually in compliance with anything. All you have is really the data and so we’ve really taken this approach where we’re building the infrastructure that allows that data to go from your facility record to the right regulator and basically have feedback that it’s been documented, we actually make payments for processing fees. The primary thesis of Encamp is that your reporting pipelines should be automated and digital so that you’re not spending your time on your Q1 copy pasting hundreds of lines out of spreadsheets.
The Human and Digital Interaction of Environmental Compliance
With an environmental system it really is a human and computer interaction where you need to be able to translate physical things that exist at your locations. It’s going to be very challenging to accomplish the outcomes that you want. Just as you think about a digital transformation process, it is always going to involve taking into account not only what can you get done with software but what are you going to have your people do and also what support can you get on an implementation process and scoping out what is this going to actually look like because it is a transformative process. It can happen quickly but it needs to be well thought out. I think it helps a lot to have experts who have done it before and can help guide you along the way.
Ensuring a Successful Implementation Across Your Organization
When we come into an organization it does begin with a lot of questions. We want to understand how the process is currently working, what are the goals that you have for the program, who all is involved in your data collection processes, where is this data coming from. We get in the weeds with our customers because I think if you don’t have that context this is where you have buyers remorse with software because it is not normally off the shelf. You have to map it into your systems and your processes especially at the enterprise level.
Building a Business Case for Environmental Digital Transformation
A good business case as well as a good environmental case is to make sure that it works because at the end of the day businesses are going to need to make decisions that are economically viable for them. We really work hard to make sure that it’s truly a value add and a positive ROI. A strong case can be made for the economic validity of having a strong compliance program.
The Long Term Benefits of Digital Transformation
You can really automate the process and how much more you’ll have visibility and confidence into your processes. This important transformative work that pays off for years and years to come that allows you to have continuity and change management in your program over time. If it’s all living in different people’s heads and different spreadsheets that becomes a real challenge. If you get this work done and you get it unified, now you have a system rather than really a set of different tasks that are running all over the place.
Question and Answer
Question 1: On average how long does it take for Encamp to process my reports from verification to final submission? Is the system agile enough to handle when I scale and add new facilities and chemicals?
The system is very agile to allow you to scale. I think on average it is six days from verification to final submission for us. As far as scalability, we process thousands of reports. This past Tier II season we’ve processed a little more than 7,000 total reports that’s tracking well over 100,000 different products that are being assessed against threshold planning quantities on a state level or county level. Outside of the system capabilities, truly it is also our people working with customers who really do help with that process. If you work with Encamp, you’re going to talk to a real human and they’re going to be a person who has worked with you closely. Your Customer Success Manager is going to have context on your goals and your challenges.
Question 2: What sort of environmental filing implications are you seeing with respect to people who file environment compliance manually and make human errors on those spotlights?
There are all sorts of types of errors that people are filing by hand. It could be typing in something just incorrectly. I would say in terms of the implications, there’s a direct risk of non-compliance so if it’s wrong you know you might be out of compliance that’s going to potentially result in notice of violation. For Tier II, if the government wants to fine you to the maximum of their capabilities, this starts around $55,000 per violation per day. If you are out of compliance, you can receive a monetary fine depending on the severity of the violation or this could result in full-on facility stoppage until you correct it
Question 3: What are some of the tangible and long-term goals I can give leadership to invest in environmental compliance technology?
First, if you’re using a consultant for instance and you want to implement the technological solution, this might ultimately result in some cost savings. Second, is actually try to quantify what is the risk that you’re currently holding and how can you mitigate that risk and almost price it internally like you would price insurance. If you can pay an amount upfront to make sure that you have less of a probability of a really calamitous downside, that has a value.We see that with a lot of organizations for sure. The third is really starting to ask the hard questions of business continuity and what happens if someone leaves if we add more locations. If you leave, just how does the process continue? Again tying this back into risk. We’re in the great resignation phase for instance, this is a period where there’s lots of churn. People are leaving businesses, it’s very possible to craft a proposal within a company to say this is actually something where we need to put in place a process that allows us to not only get in compliance but stay in compliance because if we have these people leave for instance and it’s January, we will not be able to do it. A fourth one that’s emerging is that a lot of companies are creating ESG initiatives. It seems to be getting good momentum at a board level. There are a couple things, so we plant trees for each report we file so we’ve actually prepared reports for some companies that help them calculate this as a carbon offset essentially. Just making the ROI case on opportunity costs for you or your team’s time spent on clerical tasks compared to the opportunity if you want to have no waste by 2030 or net zero carbon emissions by 2040 or anything like that. We need to get there and we need to actually be working on it.