Environmental reporting – follow the process with us

Anna Sawicka

Manufacturing companies whose activities are related to emissions, waste, or wastewater discharge have many obligations under current regulations. Our article will focus on explaining how to facilitate reporting following regulations. 

Environmental reporting – what does it consist of?  

The reporting obligation is regulated by law. Reporting is performed on a regular basis (monthly, yearly, etc.), and some of it is done on an incremental basis, with continuity as required by law – a new report is produced based on the data from the previous information and current measurements. In dispersed organisations with many pollution emitters, we may have to deal with a very complex process – from data acquisition through data grouping, processing, and ultimately making the information available properly to the right audience. 

Large organisations have dedicated environmental departments within their structure. Their main task is to ensure that all applicable environmental legislations are complied with, sustainability policies are implemented, and the results of activities are reliably reported. The most commonly used reporting tool is an Excel spreadsheet, but there are more optimal solutions when dealing with a complex process and the need for information continuity.  

Can it be done better? 

Data preparation 

The source data for reports is usually heterogeneous. This is because they may come from different company branches (often in other locations) and may be recorded at different times by different measurement sensors. In addition, they may come from various IT systems or applications in which they are registered, archived, and often pre-processed. Consequently, they are a conglomeration of context-free values corresponding to different physical entities at different levels of aggregation in time and space. This must be unified and consolidated in a single database (repository). 

Organising the data allows us to prepare for reporting but has yet to give us the ability to monitor environmental impacts in real-time. Building such a complete system for reporting emission exceedances, with the possibility of predicting the effect on the environment (e.g., by forecasting the distance harmful substances will be spread) and automated reporting, requires the implementation of several elements related to the integration of online measurement data. We recommend using OSIsoft PI in companies with multiple branches, where many parameters are recorded. 

Monitoring and reporting 

Proper data preparation allows us to start the process of creating accurate reports. This is where the difference between traditional Excel and the managed approach, where we use the Smart RDM platform, comes in. Based on a predefined form, the analyst receives a report template fed with data from the source systems. The data can still be verified, corrected, and accepted at this stage. Once the form is accepted, a report is automatically generated. The data is stored in the system as validated and will be used in the next reporting period. This allows for building a report data history.  

With the Smart RDM system provided, the customer is given the ability to generate reports on demand. Reports are available at any time for any period, in any range, from any location, for any emitter, showing emissions, concentrations, limit values, exceedances, etc. It is possible to view, download, or print the report, e.g., in PDF format. Access to information is based on granting rights to specific individuals. Permissions work not only at the stage of viewing or downloading a document but also at earlier stages of working with the data. 

Smart RDM platform – a fully scalable tool 

The Smart RDM platform has another benefit – it is scalable, allowing it to grow with changing reporting requirements or organisation growth. Once prepared, forms will be able to support new organisation units/departments automatically.  

For example, one of our clients, which produces electricity, continuously monitors (among other things) CO2, SO2, NOx, dust, NH3, Hg, CO, HCl, and HF emissions. All these values are subject to detailed reporting, e.g., CO2 levels are reported annually to the ETS (European Emissions Trading Scheme). 

In this implementation, our customer built a new unit in one of the branches – the technologies used in it are different from those used in the existing units, and the way emissions are accounted for is also different. Until the integration with the emitters, the customer could create reports manually, which were automatically completed. The whole process took a few days. 

The first step to ESG 

Another business reporting obligation is approaching – ESG (Environmental, Social & Corporate Governance) reports, i.e., non-financial reporting on environmental, social, and corporate governance. The first reports will be required as early as 2024. The environmental solution we have prepared will fully support ESG reporting. Bottom line: it is not worth wasting time on labor-intensive spreadsheet reporting. It can be done automatically and with complete process control.