About ESI

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NC Environmental Stewardship Initiative


ESI's mission is to assist organizations in reducing their environmental impacts beyond regulatory requirements and recognize those that achieve and maintain this commitment.
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The Environmental Stewardship Initiative started in 2002 at the direction of the DENR (now DEQ) Secretary.  The Division of Pollution Prevention and Environmental Assistance (now DEACS) was charged with administering the program.  The program is funded by a P2 grant from EPA that is matched 100% by the State. There are two full-time DEACS employees that primarily manage this program with support from many other DEACS employees that serve as ESI coaches and provide support and assistance to the ESI members. The program is free and voluntary for all members.  

The ESI program consists of three levels of participation. 

Environmental Partner - designed for adoption by a broad range of organizations interested in developing a systematic approach to improving their environmental performance or strengthening existing programs. 

Rising Environmental Steward - designed for facilities with a mature environmental management system and measurable goals.

Environmental Steward - designed for facilities with a history of commitment to exemplary environmental performance beyond what is required by law and that have demonstrated leadership. Requires aggressive goals, community involvement, integration of the EMS into core business functions, and demonstration of going beyond compliance. 

All applicants are required to not be under environmental criminal indictment or conviction. DEQ retains the right to reject an applicant following a compliance review. Multi-site organizations are allowed at the Partner level, however only individual facilities are allowed to apply at the Rising Steward and Steward levels of the ESI program.  

To remain in the program, each participant must:

  • Set and make progress toward environmental performance goals and/or show progress on implementing and maintaining an EMS, 
  • Demonstrate continued commitment to meet and go beyond compliance, and 
  • Submit the required annual report in a timely fashion.

Benefits of Membership in the ESI include:

  • Networking opportunities
  • Access to free training and webinars;
  • Free use of ESI Energy Toolkit equipment
  • Participation in the annual ESI Conference;
  • Partners and Rising Stewards are presented with their recognition at the annual ESI Conference;
  • Stewards are presented with their recognition at an onsite ceremony with the DEQ Secretary;
  • Bi-monthly electronic newsletter;
  • Stewards are invited to a special face-to-face meeting with the DEQ Secretary;
  • Members are appointed to a coach that serves as a single point of contact within DEQ;
  • Free assistance with EMS development and;
  • Links to your organization on the ESI website.

Services Provided to ESI Members: 

  • Personalized on-site EMS assistance
  • EMS gap analysis
  • Internal audit assistance
  • Root cause determination assistance
  • 5S events
  • Value stream mapping events
  • Dumpster dive (waste sort) assistance
  • Technical and compliance assistance
  • Waste, water, and energy reduction assistance
  • Facilitation assistance
  • SMART goal setting assistance

The ESI is continually updating the range of training classes to meet the needs of the membership. All trainings are available to ESI members at no cost.  For other interested parties, only EMS 101 is open to non-ESI members.

  • Formal EMS training is scheduled based on member interest.  Please see the Events page for upcoming classes.
    This is a series of 7 one-day modules in a group setting that provides information and exercises based on ISO 14001:2015.  At the end of the series, members will have the framework for an EMS system ready to be implemented in their organization.
    • Module 1: EMS 101, Introduction to Environmental Management Systems & ISO 14001:2015, Context & Scope
    • Module 2: Compliance Obligations, Aspect and Impact Identification and Ranking
    • Module 3: Operational Control and Monitoring and Measurement
    • Module 4: Establishing Objectives
    • Module 5: Corrective and Preventive Action and EMS Auditing
    • Module 6: EMS Internal Auditor Training
    • Module 7: EMS Retrospective - intended to serve as a Q&A session for any obstacles you may come across while implementing your EMS and follow up on questions from the training.
  • ISO 14001:2015 Conversion Course: developed for ESI members who already have an EMS in place, this two-day course helps organizations transition to the new ISO 14001:2015 standard.  Please see the Events page for upcoming classes.

The following are available on-site by request by emailing esi@ncdenr.gov

  • Internal Auditor Training
    In this one-day training, participants spend the morning learning internal auditing techniques and the afternoon conducting a mock audit to practice these new skills.
  • Lean and Green Training
    • 5S
      This is an one-hour presentation on "What is 5S?" and examples of implementation. This presentation is usually given in combination with an on-site event (see services).
      5S Basics Presentation
    • Value Stream Mapping
      This is an one-hour presentation on "What is VSM?" and examples of how to include the environment in the process. This presentation is usually given in combination with an on-site Lean & Green VSM event (see Services).

Lean Assistance Series

An external Advisory Board, appointed by the DEQ Secretary that does not exceed 15 members oversees program development and implementation. The DEQ Secretary or designee chairs the board. Membership consists of a balanced group of manufacturers, industries, industry trade groups, environmental and citizen non-governmental organizations, agribusiness, small businesses, local and state/federal government representatives, DEQ representatives, and/or others deemed appropriate. Whenever possible, ESI Environmental Stewards are given priority for membership. The Advisory Board will:

  • Establish ground rules for discussions including addressing potential conflict of interest issues;
  • Review program materials;
  • Review applications meeting minimum requirements and recommend Rising Environmental Stewards and Environmental Stewards;
  • Make recommendations for additional incentives to the DEQ Secretary as identified;
  • Review program effectiveness and make any recommended changes to the DEQ Secretary. 
  • Undertake any other duties assigned to them by the DEQ Secretary.


The DEQ Internal Workgroup provides technical support and coordination for the Advisory Board and the overall initiative. The Workgroup is comprised of representatives from all DEQ regulatory divisions.  The DEQ Internal Workgroup will:

  • Review all applicants to ESI for compliance;
  • Perform compliance checks on five-year renewals;
  • Provide technical guidance on regulatory issues; and
  • Review applications for Partner and make recommendations to the DEQ Secretary about participation.

ESI members work hard to reduce their environmental impact by conserving water, decreasing energy consumption, and curtailing waste. Each year, they report on their progress towards their environmental goals, and ESI program staff compile the data into an Annual Report. Learn about the excellent work ESI members are doing by reading the program's a​​​​​nnual reports.

                                   General Inquiries: esi@deq.nc.gov

Renee Kramer is the ESI Program Manager. To contact Renee, call 919-707-8126 or email renee.kramer@deq.nc.gov 
Yolanda Gibson is the ESI Program Manager. To contact Yolanda, call 919-707-8146 or email yolanda.graham-gibson@deq.nc.gov 
Marcia Allocco, is an ESI Coach. To contact Marcia, call 919-707-8206  or email marcia.allocco@deq.nc.gov.
Don Burke is an ESI Coach. To contact Don, call 919-707-8131 or email don.burke@deq.nc.gov.
Ron Pridgeon is an ESI Coach. To contact Ron, call 919-707-8143 or email ron.pridgeon@deq.nc.gov.
Jesse McDonnell is an ESI Coach. To contact Jesse, call 704-235-2107 or email jesse.mcdonnell@deq.nc.gov 
Not sure who to contact?  Email us at esi@deq.nc.gov