A new generation
Entropy International's environment management systems have attracted some of the biggest names in business and leading government departments. Peter McCrum finds out whyEnvironment management is not just an ethical matter - now it's about being competitive in an increasingly environmentally aware marketplace. Investors, stakeholders, client organisations are demanding evidence of environmental commitment from business partners, in order to conform with their own increasingly stringent corporate responsibilities. Compliance with ISO 14001 or EMAS is fast becoming a standard requirement for UK businesses.
This self-perpetuating policy has generated the demand for sophisticated management systems that allow companies not just to meet accreditation standards, but to install more effective corporate governance methodologies and thus improve performance. Companies want management tools by which they can accurately measure the order - or disorder - that exists within their processes and react to it. Shining a light on environmental performance
Entropy International, based in Lancaster, has developed some of the most advanced and sought-after management systems and software in the UK. Their management system, Envoy EMS, allows client companies to shine a light on their environmental performance, provides analytical, qualitative data and through this the opportunity to react meaningfully.
This kind of clarity is attractive to some of the UK's largest and most successful corporations, like GlaxoSmithKline, Vodaphone and Diageo. UK government departments have also seen the light and the Cabinet Office is the latest subscriber to the system it developed with BT.
It's an impressive portfolio of clients of which Nigel Woodhouse, vice president of marketing and Mark Robinson, director and head of business development for government, are justifiably proud. "We decided to go for the big corporate clients and government departments", said Robinson. He had found that the (former) DTLR was putting a contract out for tender to provide a web-based EMS with monitoring functionality. BT was also looking into this contract, so the companies decided to work together on a bid, exploiting each other's areas of expertise. "We won the contract not only on the technical merits of our solution, which went further than the required specification, but also on the commercial offering," Robinson says. Woodhouse had a similar experience in winning corporate clients. "The value in what we delivered was the integration of environmental, quality and health and safety systems with the ability to monitor and gain information for decision-making," he said. "Previously this information had often been stored on spreadsheets and a variety of other databases, and data collated and analysed manually."
Many of Entropy's clients are at that stage. The Envoy system is able to provide them with an integrated risk and performance management system that addresses fundamental issues such as corporate governance, corporate social responsibility and sustainable development. "Everybody has different starting points in terms of addressing certain standards or codes of conduct. We give our clients the potential to address the requirements of global reporting initiatives, which allow them to communicate internally and to external stakeholders transparency in these areas," Woodhouse says.
In order to engage with corporate players, Entropy had to be able to demonstrate a significant return on their investment, so it developed a model that allows them to go into a organisation and work with management to place values on different aspects of the business. Woodhouse claims: "In one instance we were able to show a ten times payback over the first 2-3 years."
Robinson is particularly proud of the contract with the ODPM. "In January 2002 we were awarded the contract, within ten weeks the first four major sites were certified to ISO14001 standards. Typically this would have taken at least 18 months." Other government departments woke up to this and saw the publicity surrounding fast implementation and wanted to know more. Consequently, there are over 30 government departments, agencies and other public bodies subscribing to Envoy EMS.Flexible and good value
Charlotte Wolff, corporate responsibility manager for mm02, first came in to contact with Entropy when she worked for Cable and Wireless. She was impressed and decided to install the Envoy system at mmO2. "We looked at three different systems which could provide the kind of EMS service we required. Entropy provided the best service and the best value for money", she said.
mmO2 wanted to measure its environmental and social impact, so it needed a system that could be set up to measure quantitative and qualitative data, along with employee opinions. In the first year it was used to measure environmental and social impacts, HR indicators and heath and safety information. "We found the system flexible and extremely good value compared with other systems out there. Others were significantly more expensive or less developed than the Envoy system," she says. Wolff is also happy with Entropy's customer services - it has recently developed a system where customer feedback is captured and suggestions are incorporated into the system. "I find this approach very refreshing and as a customer feel I am contributing to the whole agenda of corporate responsibility. I've noticed that apart from everything else, they seem to be having a great time, you can really sense their enthusiasm."
Vodaphone installed the system in the autumn of 2002. Chris Burgess, senior corporate responsibility manager, was pleased to be able to choose which aspects of the system to use. "We gather environmental data on energy, waste, water, handset recycling and ozone depleting substances such as refrigerants and fire suppressants. We use it for regulatory compliance and we can monitor community contributions and community investment data - charitable donations, employee volunteering, that kind of thing," he says. The collation of this information has met three main objectives. The main one, and the reason it was installed, was to support external reporting. Vodaphone has produced three CSR reports and noticed a distinct rise in the quality of data.
Another objective was to create benchmarking between individual operating companies. "One of our energy benchmarks is kilowatt hours per base station," Burgess says. "Now we can compare ourselves with other operating companies on that particular key performance indicator. It's a means to achieve consistency in data gathering. We are able to monitor internal KPIs using the survey tool and therefore set targets. We find the system pretty intuitive. The roll-out of the system was largely trouble-free, the training required is minimal and we are members of the user group so we can discus any problems or issues with Entropy."Increasing efficiency
Vodaphone has 16 operating sites worldwide, but the system is available in different languages to simplify the translation process. Burgess has not needed to call on Entropy often since the installation and he hasn't experienced any major technical problems. "Once the system is loaded it can be tailored to the specific needs of the organisation", he says.
The Department for Education and Skills installed the Envoy system in January 2003. The department attends an EMS practitioners meeting with other government departments that use the Envoy system, and it came highly recommended by ODPM. The system will provide the department with the ability to meet Target A3 of the Framework for Sustainable Development on the Government Estate, which requires "all departments to implement an environmental management system based, or modelled upon, a recognised standard in all main offices by 31 March 2004".
The department says DfES staff are impressed by Entropy's flexibility and helpfulness and it hopes that in terms of return on investment it will allow the department to improve existing actions and increase efficiency, as well as ensuring compliance with legislation. It also hopes it will raise awareness of environmental issues with staff and contractors.
Entropy has been successful in marketing its system in both the private and public sectors, and feedback from its clients is almost uniformly positive. Demand for interactive, reactive management systems is growing as the environmental data companies collect becomes more complex. Furthermore, it seems that Envoy is allowing organisations to achieve improvements, not simply to measure impacts. The government in particular has set itself ambitious targets for environmental improvement, Envoy may well help it achieve them.