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08 Nov 2023 - Technology - EnviroSys

From chaos to compliance: navigating the world of environmental data management

Environmental monitoring has progressed rapidly over the past few years. This transformation has been driven by mounting pressures from stakeholders and regulatory bodies, pushing organisations to uphold environmental compliance standards.

Environmental scientists now find themselves grappling with data from a myriad of sources, presented in diverse formats, while also contending with an ever-changing roster of stakeholders and evolving technologies. This complexity creates challenges for organisations to effectively measure and report on their environmental data and ensure they’re compliant.

While Excel has served its purpose for many businesses, providing a semblance of order and structure amidst the data chaos, it comes with substantial risks and limitations. As the importance of environmental monitoring continues to grow, so does the effort required to stay compliant. Investing in a robust environmental data management solution is now essential for maintaining compliance, securing a licence to operate and mitigating business risks.

In our white paper, we explore the pivotal role of data management in environmental compliance for today’s environmental scientist. It addresses the critical questions:

  • Why does an organisation need an environmental data management solution?
  • What are the benefits of an environmental data management solution?
  • What criteria should you consider when selecting an environmental data management solution?

We also introduce a new standard in environmental data management with acQuire’s solution, EnviroSys, showcasing use cases in the mining sector.

If you want to skip ahead, click on the sections below:

  1.  Why does an organisation need an environmental database management solution?
  2. What are the benefits of an environmental data management solution?
  3. What criteria should you consider when selecting an environmental data management solution?
  4. A new standard in environmental data management with EnviroSys.
  5. EnviroSys Use Cases.
  6. Getting started with EnviroSys.

Environmental scientists collecting samples in the field on their data capture device.

Why does an organisation need an environmental data management solution?

In the mining and metals industry, Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) concerns currently reign supreme. According to a report by EY, ESG is the number one risk in 2024 for mining and metals companies, while KPMG’s Survey of Sustainability Report 2022 revealed that nearly all the world’s 250 largest companies by revenue are reporting on sustainability or ESG. These reports emphasise the significance of businesses reporting on their environmental impact.

Historically, many businesses relied on spreadsheets to address their environmental monitoring requirements. However, as the complexity of data sources and formats grew, compliance demands became increasingly intricate, and the regulatory and stakeholder landscape evolved, it became evident that sophisticated data management software was necessary. Environmental data management solutions are no longer solely about compliance; they are now integral to overall business success.

Today, organisations can no longer rely on publishing aspirational or unsubstantiated claims; they must prove their compliance credentials at any given moment. Failure to do so presents a number of challenges including:

  • increased risk of regulatory noncompliance, fines and other legal actions,
  • potential modifications or halt to production and revenue-generating activities,
  • heightened risk of causing harm to the environment and the communities in which operations are conducted,
  • imposing pressure and anxiety on individuals entrusted to uphold regulatory obligations.

This is where traditional methods of environmental reporting – such as folders in Microsoft SharePoint, data arranged in spreadsheets, and other rudimentary databases – fall short, and the need for a robust, versatile and reliable environmental data management solution becomes apparent.

What are the benefits of an environmental data management solution?

An environmental data management solution offers a multitude of benefits, including:

  • Enhanced compliance and reporting: At its core, an environmental data management solution can help organisations manage the data and information required to meet compliance obligations and streamline reporting processes.
  • A single source of truth: Gone are the days of engaging multiple stakeholders to collect, sift through and then decipher data to determine compliance. An environmental data management solution handles the complexity and scale of any and all environmental data types delivered in a large variety of formats, including lab data, IoT telemetry, data warehouses and third-party software data. A unified repository promotes data integrity, accessibility and centralisation.
  • Real-time insights and risk management: An environmental data management solution delivers real-time insights into environmental performance, facilitating on-demand reporting, informed decision-making and effective response to regulatory mandates and stakeholder needs. Organisations can detect trends and emerging issues in real-time with data visualisations. This lets your company proactively manage environmental risk and prevent damage before it occurs.
  • Auditability and defensibility: Every step in data collection, transformation, reporting and the chain of custody is auditable and defensible, ensuring transparency and traceability.
  • Efficiency and time savings: Automation of manual data management tasks increases efficiency, allowing teams to focus on other business-critical tasks.

In essence, an environmental data management solution is more than just a tool; it is a strategic asset that empowers organisations to navigate the evolving landscape of environmental responsibility, compliance, and sustainable performance. It ensures that data becomes an enabler of success rather than a source of complexity and risk.

So, what exactly do we need to look for in an effective environmental data management solution?

What criteria should you consider when selecting an environmental data management solution?

Selecting an environmental data management solution is not merely about managing data; it’s about transforming data management into a strategic business advantage by empowering users to make decisions and report on compliance with confidence and efficiency. The choice of such a solution significantly impacts an organisation’s ability to navigate complex environmental compliance landscapes, streamline data integration, harness automation, and foster connections with stakeholders.

In this section, we evaluate an environmental data management solution on five key areas: data management, data integration, automation, compliance and connectivity.

Data management: Is it robust enough to support the multidisciplinary nature of data collection, data formats, and storage methods?

It is imperative to find an environmental data management solution that offers comprehensive support, spanning end-to-end data management from data capture and transformation, to reporting. This serves as a safeguard against data fragmentation and silos and ensures the longevity and integrity of your data.

In an era of increasingly intricate environmental data monitoring, many organisations have resorted to piecemeal solutions, stitching together disparate systems built to handle specific data types such as water or air quality. A truly competitive advantage lies in finding a solution that is robust enough to accommodate multiple data types in a consistent interface, leaving no data behind.

Data integration: Can it ingest all data types or is data segregated across multiple systems?

It is paramount that an environmental data management solution can seamlessly ingest and transform all types of data from diverse sources across your environmental monitoring programs. This comprehensive data spectrum encompasses, but is not confined to, data pertaining to air quality, groundwater, surface water, potable water, meteorological conditions, noise levels, waste management, emissions, soil analysis, land disturbance and rehabilitation activities, and flora assessments.

A high-quality environmental data management solution should not only be proficient in accommodating both real-time and analytical results data but should also unite these data streams in a single, integrated repository. You should have the ability to discern precisely when data was collected, its source, the frequency of acquisition, and its complete chain of custody, within the repository.

Relying on a multitude of products to handle the growing array of data sources necessary for environmental reporting can inadvertently transform data management into an unwelcome burden and introduce a heightened risk of system failures. Should any system lag in support or functionality, your organisation’s capacity to ensure compliance stands at risk.

Automation: Does an environmental data management solution eliminate the need for manual data handling or reliance on additional software?

Loading data into an environmental data management solution should be simple. If your current solution requires manual handling processes, or additional software or modules to extract data, the margin for error increases exponentially.

Look for a solution with the capability to load data sources from the field or third-party data and automatically feed results from labs and other analysts directly into your software, without additional manual data handling.

A crucial feature to consider is whether the software allows flexible data mapping. Your software should allow flexible data mapping to reduce or eliminate issues arising from data providers with different naming standards to your own. It is this adaptability that ensures smooth integration and uniformity, regardless of the data source.

An environmental data management solution should support automation, sparing you from the pitfalls of manual data handling and freeing you from dependence on supplementary software.

Compliance: How can an environmental data management solution support real-time compliance obligations?

Compliance in the world of environmental reporting is a multifaceted challenge. It involves evaluating an organisation’s environmental performance considering both internal benchmarks and external regulations. Monitoring all the parameters of environmental reporting is complex and there are several key considerations to address:

  • Diverse regulatory landscape: Compliance often necessitates reporting to different regulatory bodies, each potentially operating on its own distinct schedule. Navigating this intricate web of compliance requirements can be a formidable undertaking.
  • Data diversity: Environmental data emanates from numerous sources and can arrive in a variety of formats.
  • Varied monitoring obligations: Compliance obligations for environmental data are far from uniform. Different environmental obligations demand diverse monitoring conditions and methodologies. Staying compliant means continually adapting to these evolving requirements.

Compliance is not only limited to the collection and reporting of environmental data. Equally crucial is the assurance of data completeness, that is, the ability to coordinate and track all pertinent activities performed and know immediately if any critical information is missing.

An effective environmental data management solution comes into play here. By establishing a framework of actions within the system, such as alerts, guidelines, limits and triggers, users can be notified in real time. This approach shifts the paradigm from reactive responses to failed compliance checks, back to proactive measures to manage their compliance status.

Connectivity: How easy is it to integrate your environmental data management solution with other systems and share data between them?

When sourcing an environmental data management solution, it is paramount to avoid black box solutions – where data goes in but never sees the light of day. The ability to seamlessly integrate an environmental data management solution with other systems, and facilitate the effortless flow of data, is the lifeblood of modern environmental data management.

To understand the connectivity of a solution, there are three areas to explore:

  • Connectivity with other systems: The first litmus test for an environmental data management solution is its ability to push or pull data to other systems. Ideally, this process should be automated to allow users to schedule and publish data at a frequency that is required. The ease with which your chosen solution handles this data interchange can be a game changer in streamlining your environmental management workflow.
  • Sharing with internal stakeholders: A robust environmental data management solution should facilitate seamless data sharing with internal stakeholders across a business. Does your software enable you to share dashboards across departments and teams without additional user licences? Removing these data silos within a business fosters collaboration and bolsters business insights.
  • Engaging external stakeholders: Beyond the walls of a business lie external stakeholders who require access to your environmental data. Can you create company-branded reports for external distribution to stakeholders? Additionally, the flexibility to produce data extracts in various formats, as and when needed, is indispensable for satisfying the demands of external stakeholders.

If you have found an environmental data management solution that can handle the connectivity mentioned here, then you’re on the right path. But which environmental data management solution is most suitable for you? The final decision hinges on factors unique to your organisation’s needs, goals, and environmental data ecosystem.

A new standard in environmental data management with EnviroSys

In the ever-changing landscape of environmental data management, it’s important to recognise that not all environmental data management solutions are created equal. You must be discerning in your software choice to ensure you choose an environmental data management solution that meets your specific needs.

Enter EnviroSys: a leading environmental data management solution offering a fully integrated, end-to-end view of the state of your compliance. EnviroSys consolidates all environmental information into a single source of truth, ensuring compliance transparency, auditability, and robust data management. What truly sets EnviroSys apart is its ability to handle the complexity and scale of environmental data, easily managing thousands of requirements across multiple disciplines and stages of operation.

EnviroSys has a number of built-in functions to simplify an environmental scientist’s work:

  • Streamlined data input console: An intuitive data input console allows users to remedy file load mapping issues, ensuring a smooth data input process.
  • Data file protocol: Eliminate manual reformatting and manipulation. EnviroSys automates these tasks, enhancing efficiency and accuracy.
  • Flexible data mapping: EnviroSys effortlessly handles issues around naming standards across multiple data providers, minimising the complexities of data integration.

But the benefits of EnviroSys don’t stop with its cutting-edge features. We’re committed to ensuring users have the knowledge and resources they need to master the software. With EnviroSys, customers are supported with implementation and support services, a detailed Knowledge Base and a number of online learning units. These systems are designed to empower your users to take charge of their environmental data management software and operate as independently as possible.

EnviroSys isn’t just another software tool – it’s a complete solution supporting your quest for environmental data excellence.

EnviroSys Use Cases

1. Miner operating in close proximity to the community

Challenge: An Australian-based mining company was operating an open-cut mine in close proximity to the community. To maintain their licence to operate, the mining company had to ensure dust, noise and vibration levels did not exceed the regulatory levels and did not impact on the nearby residential community.
The mining company needed a way to monitor and manage all associated mine data in real time, with the capacity to provide alerts for any guideline exceedances, so that counteractive measures could be actioned. They also needed a single source of truth for all other environmental data, including water, flora and fauna, and energy data.

Solution: EnviroSys was configured to facilitate data loading from third-party providers such as water data feeds from laboratories, real-time loggers such as telemetry devices for weather and air quality, and manual entry.
Guidelines and trigger levels were established on the mining company’s real-time data, equipping the system to deliver notifications via SMS and email to users regarding any exceedances. Exceedance notifications provided users with the information they needed to make critical decisions quickly.

2. Water reporting made easier for a mining company

Challenge: An Australian bulk commodity, metallurgical and thermal coal miner was capturing and reporting on their environmental data across disparate systems. To maintain compliance with the regional water-reporting legislation, the mining company was required to report onsite water input, output and storage figures.

Working across multiple data sources was time-consuming and prone to errors. The mining company needed a central repository for their environmental data that was auditable, complete with where, when and by whom the data was collected and the quality of data.

Solution: EnviroSys was set up as a central repository for the mining company to facilitate the collection, storage and reporting on their environmental data. The solution also provided access to real-time information and alerts for when incoming results data exceeded configured threshold limits, enabling them to make time-critical and data-driven decisions. With a suite of standard and custom-built reports designed with the necessary information to meet regulatory needs, the mining company could streamline the process of managing their environmental data. This, in turn, allowed the company to allocate more time focusing on other environmental management initiatives.

3. Simplifying environmental reporting for a mining company

Challenge: An Australian-based mining company was manually inputting values for 291 environmental parameters into their corporate systems as part of their monthly corporate environmental reporting. This was a time-consuming task that usually required two to three days for environmental staff and was prone to human error. The corporate reporting system also provided no data interrogation capability.

Solution: With EnviroSys, the process for monthly corporate environmental reporting was significantly reduced, to one to two hours, and the output produced high-quality data. The person in charge of collecting the data receives an email each month with embedded data entry forms containing 108 essential parameters which are required to be filled out and emailed back to the software. The remaining 183 parameters are automatically preloaded by EnviroSys. EnviroSys data is checked and then exported, ready to be imported into the corporate reporting system. This ensures the data quality and quantity is complete across all mines, and the mining company can now report on their compliance status with ease waterways using EnviroSys.

Getting started with EnviroSys

Whether you’re unsatisfied with your existing environmental data management software or starting your journey to implement a solution, the acQuire team is ready to help. Contact acQuire to navigate the complexities of environmental data with confidence while maximising your next data management solution investment.

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