Monitoring as an instrument for improving environmental performance in public authorities Experience from Swedish Infrastructure Management
Abstract: Monitoring is an important tool for gaining insight into an organisation’s environmental performance and for learning about the environmental condition and the effectiveness of environmental management measures. Development of environmental monitoring has generally relied on research aiming at improving monitoring methodology, technique or practice within a particular management tool. Little empirical research has taken into account the organisation’s reality where several management tools are used in parallel. This thesis analyses the practice of environmental monitoring in public authorities with the aim of identifying barriers and possibilities for environmental monitoring as an instrument for improving environmental performance, using the Swedish Rail Administration as a case organisation. The study identified two different types of environmental monitoring: environmental performance measurement (EPM) and activity monitoring, both important for achieving environmental improvements. EPM involves gathering and evaluating data to determine whether the organisation is meeting the criteria for environmental performance set by the management of the organisation. EPM can further be used for judging the success and failure of environmental objectives and strategies. Activity monitoring provides each project of the organisation with information to minimise the negative effects on the natural environment or human health and to ensure that the organisation’s operations conform with regulations.Problems encountered comprised a variety of little co-ordinated monitoring activities, poor utilization of the monitoring results as well as limited internal feedback on monitoring results. Some of the problems identified seem to be an effect of the management transition from a traditional ‘command and control’ system to a self-administered organisation managed by economic incentives and voluntary management systems.This thesis suggests several improvements to make monitoring more efficient. Primarily, the monitoring systems must have a clear structure and be adapted to its specific function. The EPE system would benefit from being integrated with the organisation’s central performance measurement, presenting progress towards organisational strategic objectives as well as operational objectives. The system for activity monitoring must not only focus on inputs and outputs to the system but must also include the environmental condition of the system. In order to improve communication and learning, monitoring data within both EPE and activity monitoring must be better transmitted and utilised within the structure of the permanent organisation. Experience from all monitoring activities that now is scattered and inaccessible to the individuals of the organisation could beneficially be stored within a well-structured organisational ‘memory‘. Such a system would facilitate an iterative management process where the monitoring results and the knowledge gained are used for making future plans and projects more adaptive, thereby improving the environmental performance of the organisation.
CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE WHOLE DISSERTATION. (in PDF format)