Environmental Performance Indicators provide organizations with a tool for measuring, evaluating and controlling their performance. These quantifiable metrics reflect the performance of an organization in the context of achieving its environmental goals and objectives.
They are also useful in illustrating environmental improvements, identifying market opportunities, providing essential data for environmental reports and statements, providing feedback to motivate members of the organization and to support the implementation of the ISO 14001 standard.
However, not all performance indicators are useful to every organization. These must be identified and measured considering the nature and context of the organization and its specific targets and goals.
Even though there’s not a set of performance indicators that is right for every ISO 14001 management system, there are performance indicators that can be commonly seen in many environmental performance indicator reports. Some of these are:
Operational Performance Indicators
These measure environmental impact caused by an organization’s main activities.
Emissions to air
- Greenhouse Gases
- Acid Rain
- Eutrophication and Smog Precursors
- Dust and Particles
- Ozone Depleting Substances
- Volatile Organic Compounds
- Metal emissions to air Emissions to water
- Nutrients and Organic Pollutants
- Metal emissions to water
Emissions to land
- Pesticides and Fertilisers
- Metal emissions to land
- Acids and Organic Pollutants
- Waste (Landfill, Incinerated and Recycled)
- Radioactive Waste
- Water Use and Abstraction
- Energy use (Natural Gas, Oil, Coal, other)
Environmental Management Performance Indicators
These reflect organizational actions management is taking to minimize their environmental impact. These indicators serve as internal control measures and information, but do not provide valid information on the real environmental performance of an organization. These performance indicators should not be used exclusively for the evaluation of environmental performance, but as a support in evaluating the actions taken within the environmental management system. Some of these are:
- Number of sites that have environmental management systems
- Number of ISO14001 certification
- Number of training sessions regarding environmental preservation and of people attended
- Number of environmental audits by kinds (internal and external environmental audits)
Every organization is different and each one needs to carefully examine which environmental performance indicator suits it best. These indicators should summarize extensive environmental data to a limited number of significant key information points and ensure rapid assessment of the organization’s main improvements and weaknesses in environmental protection. This information should be comparable from year to year or period to period, allowing unfavorable trends to be quickly detected in order for timely actions to be taken to correct and improve the organisation’s environmental performance.