These days, sustainability is more than a buzzword. It’s a sign of corporate social responsibility. Consumers of today are no longer willing to ignore corporate sustainability – in fact, they demand to know how companies are taking steps to protect the environment in their work.
In order to provide a sustainable approach to your business, you have to understand how your business is performing in the first place. That’s where leading and lagging indicators come in. Just like any other element of safety, there are leading and lagging environmental indicators to cover almost every major facet of the way your company does business.
Here’s a look at what those indicators are and how to look for them in your company.
What Are Leading and Lagging Indicators?
Leading and lagging indicators are signs of your safety program’s relative health. They give you a measuring stick to understand how you’re performing. The difference is when they provide that flash of perspective.
Lagging indicators are more popular among management because they’re easy to track. These are numbers like your fatality rate – easily recordable, easily referenced, easy to find. The problem is that, as the name implies, they lag behind the event. They actually occur after the event has already happened, which means you can’t directly influence them after the fact.
Leading indicators are more useful to influence, but they’re also harder to spot. These are the signs you get before an incident that would indicate a safety issue, which means leading indicators are your opportunity to prevent safety incidents from happening.
Examples of Leading and Lagging Environmental Indicators
Lagging environmental indicators indicate environmental performance after the fact. These include things like:
- Water bills
- Energy bills
- Vehicle fuel records
- Waste management bills
Leading indicators are signs of environmental performance that would point to those end results before they happen. For example, recording participating in sustainability training, or recording incidents of sustainable behavior by employees such as turning out the lights after leaving a room.
Combining Leading and Lagging Indicators
The key to a successful environmental approach is to bring your leading and lagging indicators together to get a comprehensive picture of your whole organization. This requires a bit of finesse and practice.
You have to know what leading and lagging indicators you’re looking for. That starts with a comprehensive review of what you’re trying to learn from your indicators. If you’re trying to learn about water consumption, for example, indicators related to your electricity usage won’t do you any good.
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