Managing environmental compliance means not only meeting environmental regulations and reducing the risk of catastrophic leaks, but also identifying operational gaps and implementing solutions to resolve or mitigate those gaps. At a time when companies are asking staff to constantly do more with less, how can you be confident in your compliance management?
Build up foundational knowledge
Compliance managers operate in a world where state and federal regulations are constantly changing. It’s crucial that compliance managers know their governing environmental regulations. It could take several years for a compliance professional to truly know the regulations by heart (and by then they’ll probably have changed anyway), so having a reference on hand will serve them well should a crisis arise.
Compliance managers should also lean on vendors, peers, consultants, and the regulatory community for guidance on reducing risk exposure. Compliance affects almost every function in an organization, so it’s important to build internal relationships as well as external ones to identify how everyone can impact an organization’s compliance.
Staying organized – the key to success
Forecourt data is becoming easier to access, but without an organized system to compile and analyze it, the data might as well be buried with your UST. Spreadsheets may work for only one site, but once a company has several locations, especially across multiple jurisdictions, the data becomes increasingly chaotic and time-consuming to analyze.
A powerful, simple platform that captures all necessary data is critical for compliance managers in today’s fast-paced environment. Operating at the highest level means compliance managers need to embrace more robust systems to store and organize compliance data. With a single source of truth at their fingertips, compliance managers can retrieve the exact information they need for an upcoming inspection, permit renewal, or test for an easier, more efficient approach.
Out into the field
At the end of the day, understanding regulations and a good database will only get you so far. Compliance managers need to get out into the field to understand what systems the company has, how they function, and what problems frequently occur. Tracking assets and recurring issues can help compliance managers understand where their budget is being spent and how to decrease costs. Critical insights such as these are often difficult to keep track of in a spreadsheet, but forecourt management software that tracks this data and related correspondence can help compliance professionals make better business decisions.
As these insights are recorded and patterns emerge, compliance managers should reference their support network and the knowledge they’ve built up to ensure there are systems in place to solve these challenges.
Plan for the worst-case scenario
Despite every compliance manager’s best effort, releases will undoubtedly occur. The first step in mitigating your exposure is to identify potential points of failure and how they could impact sites. Include other departments in the plan, as regulations often require specific notifications to ensure an effective response.
The best way to guide plans for a worst-case scenario is to conduct a gap analysis, where compliance managers review current processes and document organizational requirements. Once this information has been collected, managers should compare these to what is required by regulations to identify any areas where they may be lacking. This is where field experience is vital, as compliance professionals can accurately assess their risk indicators and implications from the insights they gathered in their database. But completing this process doesn’t mean a company will always be in compliance, this is something that must be reviewed and updated on an ongoing basis.
The future of compliance
Technology adoption has swept through the convenience store industry, and compliance departments can reap the benefit. Not only have advances in AI and Big Data helped c-store professionals get large amounts of data quickly, they’ve also provided access to analytics and insights that help drive profitability. But perhaps the most exciting development for compliance professionals has been the Internet of Things. IoT improvements allow users to access data from multiple equipment sources on one central platform, which is critical for environmental departments that touch most aspects of a company. To ensure nothing slips through the cracks, compliance managers need to take a holistic approach and single platform usage is integral to that strategy.
Today’s compliance managers have a lot on their plate, but with an organized platform for data and a strategic plan to address operational gaps, mitigating risk and maintaining compliance becomes a whole lot easier.