Archive for November, 2008
It’s speculation time in DC. What should President-elect Obama’s Environmental, Health & Safety and Sustainability priorities be and what are your views of the people rumored to be in the running for Administrator? This is your chance to let the incoming Administration’s political transition team hear your (anonymous) voice about who should head relevant federal departments for our profession:
I’ll start on the issues:
- Climate change – No shocker! It’s time for action; time to get the US in the game shaping the future rather than playing ostrich. What should a US program look like and what are your biggest concerns?
- Priorities for the next 4 years – Sounds mundane, but in a government that will be severely constrained, establishing priorities in a transparent process involving industry and NGOs is critical. Not an endless Commission but a fast, focused discussion that sets the agenda. No grid lockers invited! We can’t do everything; what can wait and what should move ahead?
- Finally, the people – I’ve included a list of names I’ve seen circulated for some of the top spots relevant to us. I welcome your comments and thoughts on these potential picks:
- Ian Bowles, Secretary of Energy and Environment, Commonwealth of Massachusetts
- Dan Esty, Yale Law School Professor and Author
- Lisa P. Jackson, Commissioner of Environmental Protection, New Jersey
- Robert (Bobby) Kennedy, Jr. – Chief Prosecuting Attorney for the Hudson Riverkeeper and President of Waterkeeper
- Jonathan Lash, President of World Resources Institute
- Kathleen McGinty, former Secretary of Environmental Protection, Pennsylvania
- Mary Nichols, Head of California Air Resources Board
CEQ – Council on Environmental Quality
- Carol Browner, Former Administrator of the U.S. EPA
- Phillip Cooney, currently Chief of Staff at CEQ
- Howard Learner, President & Exec. Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center
- DISBANDED…? Entity will be rolled into a newly-formed White House Energy Security Council
- David Hayes, Partner – Latham & Watkins and former Deputy Secretary, US Dept. of the Interior
- Former Governor John Kitzhaber, Oregon
- Former Governor Tony Knowles, Alaska
- Senator Ken Salazar, Colorado
A friend at the end of our senior year of college once said, “Four years ago I couldn’t spell engineer… and now I are one.” Lately I have been hearing a similar comment only it goes like this, “Five years ago I’d never heard the word sustainability and now I’m in charge of it.”
Based on experiences at the recent NAEM EHS Management Forum, it seems to me that the current state of understanding in the EHS community about the “practice of sustainability” goes something like this:
10% – Get it, embrace it, know exactly what to do with it, and are racing ahead with it.
10% – Hate it, don’t want anything to do with it, and would prefer that you not bring it up, especially around their management
80% – Are trying to figure it out, wonder what to do about it and contemplate how it’s going to impact their work load and budget.
Not only are companies trying to figure out what sustainability means, they are trying to find the right process owner for it, and often that is EHS. Sustainability, unlike any other new initiative that I have experienced in my EHS career, requires more involvement and buy-in from more parts of the organization.
If you don’t believe that, just ask that EHS Manager that has been given the assignment of reducing their company’s GHG emissions, improving their packaging, eliminating old growth forest products, or for ensuring the working conditions of all it’s suppler employees in China. It takes a whole new set of management skills and relationships with senior management, procurement, investor relations, human resources, and most other functions.
As if that’s not challenging enough, we are supposed to lead this effort during a historic economic downturn. Seems like it’s not, “do more with less;” it feels more like, “do something completely new with nothing at all.”
While we’ve become competent managing the old S, the challenges that come with sustainability make reducing the injury rate look simple.
Time to start thinking and acting very differently.
The future of Industrial Hygiene?
Carol Singer Neuvelt
I’m writing this post on the heels of NAEM’s annual conference – the EHS Management Forum, where 450+ EHS professionals just met for three days to discuss the challenges and priorities facing their profession. The following are the themes and issues that I heard, and I’d like to get YOUR PERSPECTIVE as to whether these are the relevant concerns of today.
Sustainability is finally a key business strategy-not just an “add on.” The focus on energy management as a cost controller, the company’s overall carbon footprint, and the growing importance of supplier relationships and their impact on emissions management are now influencing corporate strategies.
The importance of transparency and corporate reporting on EHS practices continues to increase. Customer satisfaction and brand management with regards to sustainability have gotten the attention of the “C Suite.”
Companies are transitioning away from reactive relationships with NGOs to proactive stakeholder engagement. The challenges of sustainability require new understandings and relationships between EHS/Sustainability managers with all stakeholder groups–internal and external to the company.
EHS Professionals will not survive as technical experts. EHS managers will increasingly be called to play a role in evaluating and encouraging adoption of new technologies and products. Leadership and communications skills will take on greater importance as employers consider who to employ and who to promote.
The profession of EHS management continues to evolve but, I believe, it will be more critical in the coming years as a result of the need to evaluate the risks & efficacies of emerging technologies, changing workplace demographics, and the growing recognition among top corporate leadership that the world, is as Tom Friedman has indicated, becoming increasingly hot, flat and crowded.