Training up at Tata Steel

8th December 2011


Tata

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IEMA

Sarah-Jayne Russell discovers how Tata Steel is using IEMA Associate certificate training to drive forward its sustainability agenda

Tata Steel’s takeover of Corus in 2007 made the world sit up and pay attention to India as an economic force to be reckoned with. At the time, the £5.75 billion deal was the largest ever takeover of a foreign firm by an Indian company and it propelled Tata from being the 56th largest steel producer in the world to the fifth.

As well as clearly marking Tata Steel’s commercial intent, the change of ownership brought about changes in the steelmaking operations themselves, including a much clearer emphasis on sustainability.

Towards the end of 2010, coinciding with the organisation’s official name change to Tata Steel, a revised operating model was introduced, outlining a new vision and setting goals for the company that focused specifically on corporate social responsibility and the environment.

“This involves a new environmental policy and behind that a new corporate environment management system (EMS), which requires that all of our people with responsibility for the environment are trained,” explains Damon Tweedie, environment assessment manager in Tata Steel’s group environment function.

Approximately 100 people have core managerial responsibility for the environment across the businesses’ quarrying, steel production and manufacturing sites, supported by a further 50 area experts operating in the central environment function. Many have trained as engineers or chemists rather than as environmentalists and, over time, have seen their role shift to include direct responsibility for the environment.

After the introduction of the new EMS, Tweedie and his colleagues began investigating how to roll out centralised and coordinated training across the organisation to ensure that all those with environmental responsibilities had a similar knowledge base on which to build.

The firm was looking for a professionally recognised qualification that would provide staff from diverse backgrounds with a good grounding in environment management, and swiftly decided on the IEMA Associate certificate.

“We’re aiming to develop the skills, knowledge and professional competencies across our environmental function. The Associate certificate covers both the breadth of subjects we wanted and offered the professional status that we were looking for,” confirms Tweedie.

“Ideally, we would like to get to the point where we have this level of qualification as a prerequisite to doing environmental jobs, but we are very early on in the process.”

The test case

The first step in this competency development journey has been an initiative that saw Greg Roberts, a senior environment adviser and trainer from the manufacturers’ organisation EEF, come into Tata Steel and run an IEMA Associate certificate course for 12 members of staff.

The course ran in two week-long blocks this summer, with a three-week gap in between. It followed the certificate syllabus (see below), starting with a basic introduction to environmental issues and their importance to business and continuing to cover legislation before moving in week 2 to specific EMS tools and their application.

Tweedie and his colleagues chose to run the training internally because, as well as being more cost-effective than sending individuals to ad hoc open courses, it allowed the company to tailor the course content to make it as relevant as possible. While the syllabus does not change, an internal course provides much greater scope to adapt learning materials to make them more pertinent to the company.

Roberts confirms this: “I was able to use case studies from Tata Steel’s operations, talk specifically about its management systems, take delegates on visits to Tata Steel sites and focus on the legislation that was most relevant for the business operations, in a way that I couldn’t have on an open course,” he says.

Another benefit of running the course internally was that it enabled the company to bring staff from across the business together to share their experiences and knowledge, as delegates and also as guest speakers who presented on specialist areas such as life-cycle assessment, waste management and climate change.

Sharing experiences

Alastair Dunn, quarrying and services manager at Tata Steel’s limestone quarry in Shapfell, Cumbria, attended the course to build on his operational knowledge of environment management and as a step to IEMA membership. He says the course helped to highlight the expertise already existing in the company and how it can support the environmental side of his role moving forward.

“We have a lot of experts in the company and it was great to meet them, find out what their area of expertise is and where they sit in the environment function,” he says. “It felt like everyone was bringing their experiences to the course and I think that we will want to impart that knowledge to other people in the business. The course has given us the extra confidence to go back to our own parts of the business and do that.”

Jonty Brownlow, a speciality steels environment engineer in the Stocksbridge steelworks in Sheffield, agrees: “I am an environmentalist by training and joined the course to become an IEMA member, so there was nothing in the syllabus that I hadn’t covered before, but I hadn’t studied some of the basic principles in a long time and it was a great refresher.

“Once you enter the industrial environment you spend most of your time dealing with the legislative ins and outs of your day-to-day role. You aren’t necessarily thinking about the wider issues of sustainable development or climate change. I came back from the course with a spring in my step. It’s spurred me on to go out and try to improve things and given me more confidence in communicating the wider issues.”

For others on the course, such as Paul Wheeler, a principal energy engineer in the central environment function, much of the certificate covered new ground. “I come from an electronics background and moved three years ago into the team tasked with improving energy efficiency and looking at the impact of climate change. For me, the course was an opportunity to gain an appreciation for the wider environmental issues that impact the business, and it did exactly that,” he says.

“It was a challenging course for me because we covered a lot of new topics, particularly the regulatory aspects, but I would recommend it. It gave me an insight into my colleagues’ work, helped to set the scene for the work I am doing and confirmed the importance of improving energy efficiency.”

Dunn, who is a mining engineer by background and, like many others, works with an inherited EMS, also highlighted a greater understanding of the wider context of environmental systems as an important outcome of the course. “We have good procedures in place that ensure we meet legislative requirements, but we don’t always have the knowledge to understand why we are doing these things,” he says.

“This course really clarified a lot of these issues for me and also helped me to realise where knowledge gained from my experiences at Shapfell could be shared throughout the company, for example in planning regulation and in how it relates to the environment.”

Applying the knowledge

Alongside completing a two-and-a-half-hour exam at the end of the second week, all the delegates were required to complete an environment assessment project in the weeks following the course.

The assignment was to carry out a review of an area of the business, identifying environmental aspects and impacts, and then listing and prioritising all the relevant elements of legislation. Finally, the delegates were asked to put forward recommendations, objectives and targets to improve the area’s environmental impacts.

“The project is essentially the first part of an EMS,” explains Roberts. “It’s incredible how many people come on the course who have been involved with environmental aspects and impacts, but have never done it from scratch, so this helps delegates to understand the systems they have inherited, as well as giving them a chance to apply all they have learned in the classroom.”

The project was generally seen as one of the most challenging aspects of the course in terms of trying to fit it alongside their day-to-day roles, but also one that could bring real benefits to both the individuals and the organisation as a whole.

For Wheeler the project was a chance to consolidate his knowledge as he would be unlikely to carry out such a task again in his current role in the organisation. “The project was a bit of a surprise, but I can see the value in it because potentially you can use it to develop proposals for the business as well as reinforcing what you learn on the course.”

Meanwhile, Brownlow found that, as an environmental manager, the project represented a process that he was already very familiar with. “Performing environmental assessments is something that I do every day, so the assignment was a bit of a frustration for me. That said, because our system is quite mature, it’s not often you get the opportunity to review the whole of it from scratch,” he said.

The project was particularly useful for Dunn at the Shapfell quarry, who used it to assess the site’s lime-making facilities. “We’ve spotted a number of areas, such as noise management, that haven’t been recognised as well as they could be in our EMS. We have come up with proposals that can improve the situation fairly easily and cheaply,” he says.

Pushing forward

As well as resulting in potential ideas to improve Tata Steel’s approach to the environment, the course seems to have left the candidates feeling positive and fired up to share what they’ve learned with their colleagues.

“I’m really keen to push the whole environment agenda throughout our part of the organisation,” says Dunn. “It’s something I feel that we need to do, not just in terms of gains for the environment, but also to provide gains for the business.”

Meanwhile Brownlow reveals: “It’s been a real motivation to go out and correct those things that haven’t been implemented correctly in the past and to try and preach the sustainability gospel more widely.”

“The feedback from the delegates has been really positive and it’s certainly not an easy course,” confirms Tweedie. “It’s definitely been good for the business and something we will roll out again in future.”

The next course has already been pencilled in for March next year and Tweedie hopes to continue the programme on an annual basis. His long-term plan is for Tata Steel to adopt something similar to the IEMA environmental skills map and to use the Associate certificate to bring everyone with environmental responsibilities to a specific competency level in that map.

Often with training courses, when delegates return to their day job, they can find themselves forgetting much of what they learned. Tweedie believes that the breadth of subject areas and experiences will mean that this won’t be a problem with the certificate students.

“People must be under no illusion, the certificate is not a walk in the park. It is two full weeks, plus an exam, work in the evenings and the project. But if you work hard, you get a professionally recognised qualification and that’s a fantastic achievement,” he says.

“My hope is that the delegates will be able to go back to their part of the business and implement their new knowledge and skills. It’s really about trying to green the business from within.”

If the experiences of Jonty Brownlow, Paul Wheeler and Alastair Dunn are anything to go by, it looks like Tata Steel’s plan to become more sustainable is already well under way.


IEMA Associate certificate

IEMA Associate certificate course is made up of three modules:
Environmental sustainability – ensures candidates are able to understand the issues, science and philosophy that underpin environmental sustainability. It covers: natural systems; how businesses affect the environment; pollutants and their impacts; and how businesses can benefit from effective environmental management.

Environmental legislation – provides candidates with an understanding of the regulatory process and the broad range of environmental legislation that can impact businesses including: controls on emissions; waste management; discharges to waterways; contaminated land; nuisance; and producer responsibility.

Assessment, interpretation and management of environmental performance – gives candidates the knowledge to appreciate the wide variety of tools available to help assess and manage environmental performance and the ability to choose and use the most relevant for them. The course examines environmental management systems, environmental auditing, life-cycle analysis, environmental impact assessments, risk management, pollution prevention and environmental reporting, among other topics.

More information on the course syllabus and a list of training providers visit are available on the IEMA website, and the environmentalist is currently publishing a series of articles by the course's creator Paul Reeve taking a step-by-step look at the syllabus.

Tata Steel Europe

  • Part of the Tata Group – which has operations in more than 80 countries and a total annual revenue exceeding $75 billion.
  • In 2007 Tata Steel acquired Anglo-Dutch firm Corus.
  • It is now the second largest steel producer in Europe, where it employs approximately 35,000 members of staff.
  • In the UK and Ireland the company has 22 production facilities, with the capacity to produce 10 million tonnes of steel each year.
  • The group has set ambitious targets for reducing CO2 emissions per tonne of crude steel.
  • Alongside providing IEMA Associate certificate training, the firm will be running IEMA foundation certificate courses in 2012.


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