Creating Impact with KPIs in the e-Waste Industry

08/16/2021 01:41 PM Comment(s) By Reliant EHS

We often hear about EHS KPI’s, leading and lagging indicators, and other safety metrics but what do they mean for our businesses?  How do we determine what is meaningful to track without adding additional administrative work for our EHS staff?


When we look at examples of EHS KPIs, they all seem to measure generic safety criteria or are slanted toward high risk industries, which typically do not fit most processors or recyclers in the e-waste industry.


This begs the question, what should we measure and how do we determine what is most important to us, our employees, our customers, and the overall success of our businesses?

What makes a winning KPI? 

First, let’s explore the characteristics of a good KPI.  KPI’s should be tailored towards your business and act as a point of reference to demonstrate to all stakeholders that your company is moving towards clearly defined and common goals. For a KPI to be effective in making your organization “SAFER”, it should have the following characteristics:

  • Simple and important
  • Aligned with your business
  • Focused and high impact
  • Exempt from financial metrics
  • Regularly measured

Let’s take a deeper dive into each of these characteristics and what they mean.

Simple and important

Every employee working for your company must be able to understand the KPI and why it brings value to your organization.  It must be simple to use, easy to measure, and able to be broken down into segments.  Ideally, a great KPI will be something that is able to be directly tied to the outputs of employee and/or department actions so that employees are able to see the impacts of their behavior reflected in the KPI.

Aligned with your business

When you consider your short-term and long-term business goals and needs, your KPIs should align with where you’re trying to go.  While KPIs are different from goals, it is essential that you create alignment to use your KPIs to create a shared understanding of the metrics that drive your EHS performance and business forwards.

Focused and high impact

Each KPI should have a solid and measurable impact for your business that you can clearly articulate to your stakeholders.  KPIs may be focused towards internal stakeholders such as management, board members, staff, or external stakeholders such as regulatory bodies, customers, or your local community.

Exempt from financial metrics

KPIs should be a measure of your EHS and operational efficiency, not a reflection of your company’s financial performance – we have lots of numbers and reports for that.  A great KPI will be one that can be shared with all of your staff and something that personal and/or operational performance can affect. 

Regularly measured

When establishing KPIs, it is critical that you create a plan to measure the performance of the company against the KPI, define methods for measuring and evaluating performance, determine the cadence for measurement, and assign ownership of the KPI.  Creating a regular cadence for measurement (weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc.) will allow your organization to see the results of their work in the form of positive progress or identify areas where additional focus is needed due to a decline in performance.

How do I know if my KPI "fits"? 

A good set of KPI’s must be considered in the context of your business environment.  Let’s take a quick look at some common trends in the e-waste industry.

Change is constant! 

Whether the change results from high employee turnover, variations in skilled labor, changes in the regulatory landscape, shifting auditor expectations, client SLAs, or changes to devices we process, we know that change is the one thing we can count on.  The expectation of constant change creates compliance and performance challenges for us to overcome.

Manual processes are prevalent...and they're costing you

What do we do in response to change?  Unfortunately, when EHS staff must constantly respond and adapt to change rather than proactively anticipating and managing change manual processes become the go-to solution.  Because manual processes for EHS are so common in our industry, audits and demands for high levels of data collection can slow the formation of business relationships resulting in longer sales cycles, stalled sales channels, and reduced ability to respond to changes with agility.  These processes are not only inefficient for EHS teams, they have a ripple effect through the business and eventually end up hitting the bottom line.


EHS starts to be looked at as less of an operational center of excellence, and more of as a necessity to remain competitive and compliant.  EHS staff are often forced to focus on essential compliance activities rather than focusing beyond compliance, into operational excellence and performance, placing both on an equal footing resulting in increased value delivery to their organizations.

So how do we fix it?  The solution lies in sustainability 

Right, this is an article about the e-waste industry…we all know about sustainability, but when it comes to using KPIs to create a sustainable program, the concept may seem a little foreign.  The concept of sustainability we are referring to is program sustainability – an environment where the business views the EHS function as a key asset for building and maintaining profitable growth along with contributing net value to the environment, staff, customers, the community, and the world.  


The idea of the “triple bottom line” indicates that there should not be tradeoff between doing good and doing well, and a commitment to wholistically serving the needs of our customers rather than just selling a product.  This is exemplified in the e-waste industry in the commitment so many have made to integrating R2, RIOS, e-Stewards, and WEEE standards into the fabric of business operations.


To create a sustainable program that delivers on the “triple bottom line”, we must empower EHS managers by providing visibility to the positive impacts that the EHS program has created.  Using KPIs creates a clear and tangible way to highlight EHS performance, create accountability, and engage your team in aligning personal and operational behaviors.

Defining KPIs for the e-waste industry

So now that you have a better understanding of what makes a winning KPI and how creating and celebrating KPI successes can impact your business, let’s look at a few KPIs that you can implement to measure your company’s EHS performance.  

Elapsed time of supplier/DSV audits 

Purpose: Measures the time it takes to approve a supplier or downstream vendor with the intent on decreasing the effort and time.  This results in a shortened duration between agreement to sale, increased liquidity, and improved commerce.

Frequency of (observed) (un)safe behavior

Purpose: This dual metric, recording both safe and unsafe observations, provides a leading metric that identifies potential issues or centers of excellence that either warrants mitigation or promotion and identifies a cultural attitude and progression towards safety in the workplace.  Both sides of this metric provide savings from the cost of injuries, insurance, and lost production time.

Percentage of inspections completed on time 

Purpose: Indicates a focus and commitment to executing defined processes.  These processes act to reduce equipment maintenance costs, prevent friction to expected operational outputs, and improves user safety.

Percentage of staff with adequate EHS training

Purpose: Leadership drives culture, which drives behavior, which drives results.  Creating a culture that values compliance, sustainability, and operational excellence is key to improvement, which leads to innovation and business growth.

Number of staff who correctly identify what to do in an emergency

Purpose: Measures if training initiatives are working as intended and helps determine if there are communication gaps that should be resolved.  Impacts found in this area may be used as a “canary in the coal mine” in that if communication issues are found here there may be other opportunities to communicate expectations to staff.

Percentage of EHS suggestions or complaints for which feedback was provided in a timely manner

Purpose: Supports employees by clearly communicating that their needs matter by ensuring accountability and responsiveness from the EHS team, which generates further engagement from staff.

Number of days since the last accident, incident or near miss 

Purpose: Lagging indicator to identify success of preventative programs that everyone can understand and track.

Number of preventative maintenance actions 

Purpose: For those that work with hazardous materials and are subject to OSHA’s Process Safety Management (PSM) tracking preventative maintenance is a compliance requirement.  This however is useful for businesses to compare to equipment failure to measure effectiveness of maintenance actions.

Number of equipment breakdowns

Purpose: Breakdowns not only cause interruptions to business operations but also present safety hazards as ill maintained equipment is a causal factor in workplace injuries.  Good metrics to assess quality of inspections and equipment maintenance.

Corrective actions created vs. resolved

Purpose: Provides insight into the complexity, duration, and frequency of corrective actions and progress made towards resolution.

Percentage of goals achieved within a period 

Purpose: Demonstrates continual improvement and reports on progress made towards defined goals opening the discussion with key business stakeholders to set expectations and form agreements on goal duration, quality and learnings from the process to date.

Employee satisfaction and perception scores

Purpose: A combination of an Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS) and satisfaction surveys to help engage and empower employees to understand that they have a voice and can help to improve the processes they implement to increase efficiency and safety in their roles.

From written KPIs to action 

Once you have defined a set of KPIs, keeping in mind you’re the qualities of a SAFER KPI and the right “fit” for your company, you need to translate your metrics into actions that drive EHS and operational performance and behaviors.

Ready, Set, Goal! 

As you were defining your KPIs, it is only expected that you did so with goals in mind.  Goals to have everyone respond correctly to your next fire drill or to have all your corrective actions resolved within 30 days.  These goals or targets are a great starting point, however, to keep your team aligned and moving forward, it is important to focus on measurable and iterative improvements that, supported by your KPIs, help employees see meaningful change.


For each of your identified KPIs, you should think about who within your organization will be accountable for measuring the KPI each month and who can lead the charge on improving performance.  These individuals are your KPI and goal owners.  


This is a great opportunity to engage members of your staff in the EHS process that may not otherwise play a leading role.  For example, consider partnering a senior staff member or executive sponsor as the KPI owner with a more junior team member as the goal owner.  This results in improved engagement and creates a sense of ownership across organizational levels.

Defining Responsibilities

Your KPI owner and goal owner will work closely together to measure the KPI and determine how it can be improved through goals that individuals and departments within the company can work towards.  


The KPI owner should:

    1. Define the criteria for measuring performance of the KPI
    2. Define the cadence for measuring performance of the KPI
    3. Create a defined and repeatable process for measuring and reporting performance
    4. Define actions (goals) the company can take to improve KPI performance


The Goal owner should:

    1. Promote the goal within the company
    2. Recruit other staff members to participate in reaching the goal
    3. Determine what actions the company can take to reach the goal and assign responsibility for those actions
    4. Track and measure progress towards the goal
    5. Report goal performance back to the KPI owner

Implementing KPIs without increasing administrative overhead

Does the thought of creating KPIs and goals that enable your company to continually improve sound great on one hand, but also like a lot of work?  We talked about the drain that manual processes have on EHS programs and the last thing you want to is introduce KPIs that create even more manual tracking.  

Reliant EHS is here to help with solutions designed to improve your program efficiency (and, you guessed it – tracking goals and KPIs is included).  Contact us to talk more about how Reliant EHS can help you go beyond compliance.

Let us show you why EHS managers choose Reliant EHS. 

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