Archive for February, 2009
Alex Pollock explores the concepts of “urgency” and “fake work” in this week’s Green Tie blog.
Yes times are tough. President Obama has said repeatedly, “things are going to get worse before they get better.” If you listen to the news long enough, you’ll want to assume the fetal position. But, before you do, hold on. I think we EHS professionals have sound reason to be optimistic if we take the long view.
Our profession is inextricably linked to and directly affected by politics, legislation, and regulatory agency policies. The incoming administration has already demonstrated it is serious about EHS issues by its appointments and executive orders. The other evening one of the Pundit Class on a TV news program said that this administration is going to be “friendly” to “environment, health and safety issues”. Yes, the phrase EHS came out of the mouth of one of the talking heads. Astonishing. Tom Friedman has practically trademarked the phrase “green is the new gold” and has been writing and talking for several years about environmental protection as a business opportunity. The term “green” has entered the mainstream lexicon and is infused into advertising for consumer products and business branding.
So, what’s our strategy for creating a bright EHS future? Let’s turn to three well-known American economic experts: Watergate’s Deep Throat, Wayne Gretsky, and Don Corleone’ for advice.
Follow the Money.
- Watergate’s “Deep Throat”
Figure out where government agencies and businesses are making long-term investments. Keep your eyes on the economic stimulus package. For example, in one subject area of interest to me, lead-based paint, the current proposal allocates $100,000,000 to “reduce the hazards of lead-based paint.” That’s real money even by today’s standards. It’s gonna get spent somewhere, somehow. Try to position yourself to benefit from this knowledge.
A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.
- Wayne Gretsky
Seek career opportunities in emerging areas, such as global warming, sustainability, the new energy economy, high performance buildings, new urbanism architecture, city planning, innovative vehicles, public transportation, alternative energy technology R&D, etc. If we think broadly and strategically, and move outside our traditional roles, we will find opportunities to prosper. It’s also a good time to sharpen up the non-technical skills (writing, speaking, meeting management, giving presentations), network with innovators, entrepreneurs, and business developers, and policy makers, and look for emerging companies, products and lines of business.
It’s not personal, it’s just business.
- Don Corleone’
At every opportunity, highlight to the leaders within your organization how you add value by saving money, reducing risk, and improving business process efficiency. It’s also a good time to remind management of the value of the traditional EHS function under an Obama Administration (there’s a new sheriff in town, he’s hyperkinetic and armed; we’re cheap insurance, so keep us around). Add to this the fact that the first wave of EHS professionals are retiring and it suggests that there will be opportunities for EHS professionals, who have consistently demonstrated bottom line value, to move into EHS leadership positions.
So don’t hunker down, buck up. I truly think our profession is on the brink of being rejuvenated to a level we haven’t seen since the 1980s.
Stephen Evanoff is active on NAEM’s Board of Directors and leads EHS for AIMCO, the largest owner and operator of apartment communities in the US. He resides in Denver, CO with his son and wife, and can regularly be found on his days off skiing, hiking, or being dragged around the neighborhood park by his Great Dane, Natasha.
Those of us who work and toil in the environmental world owe it to our corporate leaders, our community and our political system to weigh in on the discussion on climate change – from the perspective of what it would take to ensure that the policies enacted on Capitol Hill and set in stone by EPA and the other federal & state agencies, can have successful implementation by corporate America.
I think we all have an obligation to “stand up and be counted” in the upcoming policy discussions over Climate Change. I’d welcome your comments if I’m on-target or off-base.
Here’s my advice to the President and his Cabinet about the process:
- Get started quickly and keep up the momentum. The action needed is too comprehensive and important to get mired down in political infighting. Without action, the public will lose interest because the economy is in the tank.
- Get information from more than one source. Adopt a formal stakeholder process – don’t just depend on the input from one perspective – reach out and meet with industry leaders who have already demonstrated a commitment to action, responsible NGO groups, states and global leaders.
- Keep the pressure on by announcing your intention to keep the option of using either or both regulatory actions under existing law and new legislation. But clearly evaluate the Risks/Rewards from proceeding under each. Remember that regulation under existing law may work for some sectors and new legislation will work for others.
- Don’t get bogged down in bureaucratic warfare; “inside the beltway” gridlock is not an option. You need collaboration, not competition between departments, agencies and staff.
- Your program doesn’t’ have to be perfect; this issue will require long-term strategies and there will be chances to amend & augment your policy in the future.
Now my thoughts as to the policy itself:
- Be a parent: Avoid being judgmental & name calling. Don’t demonize the process with heroes & villains.
- Focus on incentives. Don’t let the law get punitive and don’t establish a litigation bonanza with retroactive liability (i.e., superfund).
- Be flexible. One size may not fill all – Cap & Trade may be best for some sectors (utilities & some industry), but not for transportation (automobiles, aerospace, agriculture), and there may be room for a carbon tax for some sectors.
- Consistency matters. From an economic and efficiency perspective, we must focus on developing a preemptive federal approach that provides certainty and uniformity among all states.
- Cost does matter. This is not a trivial matter and given the current economic outlook, this has to be factored into the pace and scope of action.
- The US can’t do it alone. The response to climate change must take place on a global platform. China, India, and other developing countries cannot stand back and not participate in the solution.
- Good deeds should not be punished. Many companies are aggressively pursuing GHG reduction goals in the US and abroad and companies should get credit for past reductions before CO2 was regulated.
Finally, we need to develop a realistic approach and strategies to how we plan to meet our energy needs – both domestically and internationally – over the next 50 years. We cannot afford to push this off to the next Administration or the next generation of leaders.
We must take advantage of the momentum and act now.