The Season of Gratitude

Alex Pollock

Alex Pollock

The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas provides lots of time for reflection, assessment and for expressions of gratitude. In the last week we have all been reminded just how fragile and how sacred life really is.

I’m sure we are all feeling thankful for our spouses, family, friends, and especially children, but I wonder if  “my job”, “my work mates” or “my boss” appears on our “I am thankful for” list? If not then I wonder why? What can we do to move these further up our list in 2013? Some actions may be beyond our control, but upon reflection we may have more options available than we initially think. An EHS career is a terrible thing to be wasting.

I  recently read that “work is as much a basic human need as food, beauty, rest, friendship and sexuality. Without meaningful work we sense significant inner loss and emptiness. People who are cut off from work because of physical or other reasons quickly discover how much they need work to thrive emotionally, physically and spiritually.” ( “Every Good Endeavor”, Timothy Keller,2012.)  Can you relate to these sentiments? Our need to work goes way beyond a paycheck. In essence our well being is linked to our job and our feelings of self worth can either be buoyed or dashed by the workplace experience.

Most of us in EHS roles are responding to a deep sense of “calling” when we go to work. We should be thankful and excited by this chance. We have a mission to fulfill as we eagerly embrace new and exciting opportunities under the “sustainability” umbrella. All of us should be loving our jobs. We should be generating camaraderie with our workmates and enlisting them to the cause. We must believe we can make a real difference to our environment as well as to the health and safety of those around us. Does this prospect still pump you up? I hope so.

Now to a closing challenge: Did you dedicate your knowledge, skills, passion and time into improving the life experience of those around you in 2012?

2013 awaits us. In the new year ,let’s all resolve to make a  world of difference.

 

December 21, 2012 at 1:32 pm Leave a comment

The Year Ahead at NAEM

Stephen Evanoff

Stephen Evanoff

As 2012 draws to a close and a new Board of Directors prepares to begin its two-year term, I want to provide you with an overview of the year ahead at NAEM.

First, I offer my deep and sincere thanks to Kelvin Roth and Pat Perry for their vision and leadership over the past four years.  As a result of their efforts and the good work of Carol Singer Neuvelt and the NAEM staff, NAEM has expanded its membership, workshop offerings, web-based learning events, and social media networking platforms.  If you look at the NAEM web site today, it is a richer resource than it was as recently as two years ago.  Sustainability programs and benchmarking have become part of NAEM’s core offerings.  The Emerging Leaders Program has taken hold as one of NAEM’s cornerstone activities to attract and develop the next generation of EHS and sustainability professionals.  Please express your appreciation to Kelvin, Pat, Carol and the NAEM staff for their good work the next time you see them at an NAEM event.

We also have a terrific Board of Directors for the coming term.  Our first major order of business will be to develop a new strategic plan, building on the successful 2009 strategic plan that we have fully-executed over the past three years.  Rick Taylor, NAEM’s First Vice President and Vice President of EHS at Parker-Hannifin, and Kris Morico, Global Leader of GE Water Programs, will lead the strategic planning process, which will commence shortly after the holidays and conclude by mid-year 2013.  The strategic plan will guide the NAEM Board of Directors over the coming two-year term and beyond.

Until then, NAEM will continue its work to reinforce the value to business of strong environmental, health and safety (EHS) and sustainability (“EHS”) management; serve as a trusted network for EHS professionals, offer high value professional development opportunities for our members, and act as the thought leader for our profession through its research, benchmarking, and decision-making tools.

As always, your feedback and ideas are welcome.   All the best for the coming holiday season and in 2013.

Stephen Evanoff is Vice President of EHS at Danaher Corp. and the incoming president of the NAEM Board of Directors.

December 11, 2012 at 5:36 pm 1 comment

Two Tipping Points to Sustainability (and other Takeaways from the 2012 NAEM Forum)

Adapted from a post that originally appeared on the Fleishman-Hillard CSR & Sustainability practice group blog.

Robert Axelrod

Robert Axelrod

Some phrases take on a momentum all their own. Such was the case at NAEM’s recent 20th annual Forum, as Deputy Director Virginia Hoekenga introduced Paul Hawken, eco-visionary and best-selling author of“Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution.”

“His book changed my life,” she said.

It’s a sentiment I can well appreciate, having emerged from the Forum with a new perspective – at least with regard to two conditions that are necessary for reaching the “sustainability tipping point” that MIT-Sloan Management Review claims we are now approaching.

The first is a sense of complicity. While the conference offered keen insights on what corporations, governments and non-governmental organizations can do, and are doing, to promote a more sustainable future, the fate of our planet is – to paraphrase The Rolling Stones – after all, up to you and me.

Until we as individuals resolve to waste less, recycle more and make and demand greener choices, a tipping point in the right direction is likely to remain elusive. According to a study cited during a session on green marketing, 95 percent of consumers entering grocery stores said they would consider buying “green” products. Only 22 percent actually did.

In a session on life cycle analysis, we were told that nearly one-third of mankind’s global carbon footprint results from food production. Yet about that same percentage of household food purchases end up in the garbage. Add to that the fact that residential recycling rates remain stubbornly modest, and hybrid vehicle sales make up only three percent of the automotive marketplace, and it’s easy to see a lot of low-hanging fruit still on our own vines.

Sure, inadequate infrastructure, artificially high pricing, partisan politics and market confusion create barriers. But it will take individual accountability, not just corporate responsibility, to get us over the hump.

A second condition that would accelerate our journey toward sustainability is greater savings for greener choices. According to the 2012 GfK Roper Green Gauge Report, consumers’ overall willingness to pay more for greener goods has declined in recent years. But depending on the product category, 40 to 60 percent are still willing to do so. This is what researchers and marketers call the “green premium”. It’s related to the common refrain among green marketers that “all things being equal” (i.e., price and performance), more people are apt to buy greener products.

What? A green premium? All things being equal? How about a green discount? What about lower prices for environmentally preferable products and services? If driving carbon, risk, materials and waste from the value chain is truly worth something, why not let that be reflected in the asking price?

Of course, not all greener choices command a premium, but many do. And yes, some green products or services cost more to bring to market, but others cost less. Or would, if the economies of scale were there.

I’m not suggesting that companies subsidize greener products. But charging more for these choices simply because under certain conditions they can, may be short-sighted. Wouldn’t it be better to build brands, increase sales and ultimately create healthier, more sustainable bottom lines by sharing the value of greener products with the people who purchase them?

In reflecting upon my experience at the 2012 EHS Management Forum, I’m a more discerning and informed person for having attended. I have a better understanding of how nongovernmental organizations help companies with limited resources engage with stakeholders around the world; how EHS skills transfer to the broader discipline of sustainability/CSR; and how a coating used in toilets can be applied on buildings to proactively remove nitrogen oxide from the air.

If we are what we think, then the conference did indeed change my life.

Robert Axelrod is a Vice President at Fleishman-Hillard, specializing in external sustainability reporting and corporate social responsibility communications.

December 6, 2012 at 2:07 pm 1 comment

Disruption! Is it the Solution?

Katheryn Nobrega

Katheryn Nobrega

Do you find that the old ways of doing things don’t seem to work as well any more? Small tweaks can work fine for small problems, but really shaking things up can lead us to transformative breakthroughs. In these chaotic times, disruption–adding more uncertainty to the mix—might be the key to solving stubborn problems, both collectively and individually.

Consider occupational illnesses and injuries. Although their overall rate in the United States has declined, the rate of serious injuries hasn’t budged significantly in years. For decades, we relied on the Heinrich pyramid of accident causation to design injury prevention programs and investigate accidents. Then we learned that the Heinrich model was flawed. Maybe its widespread use is linked to the persistent rate of serious injuries? Losing our basis for understanding accidents is a major disruption—but also a tremendous opportunity to create a new model that could help prevent serious accidents.

Disruptions occur constantly, both in the larger world, and within our own microcosms if we’re acting within a disruptive force. For example, online crowdfunding, the process whereby a “crowd” of individual donors contributes funds to specific projects started by others, is a disruption to traditional financing. Sites likeKickstarter have been credited with successes that would have been unachievable otherwise.

Crowdfunding could address complicated environmental problems. The United Nations Environment Programme released a report recently stating that “chemical intensification,” the growing dependence of developing economies on synthetic chemicals for economic advancement, poses grave environmental and health risks to populations worldwide. The UN concludes that “sound management of chemicals can deliver major economic benefits and support green economy.”

To address this challenge, the UN recommends capacity building: international donors providing financial assistance to emerging governments to find safer chemicals and attract investment. With crowdfunding, we could help create these green economies through such environmental sites as www.thegreencrowd.com, and scientific research sites like The #SciFund Challenge.

Disruption can be forced on us as in the Heinrich example; it can inspire us to participate, as with crowdfunding; and we can also purposely create disruption to move forward. In her article “Disrupt Yourself” (Harvard Business Review, July-August 2012), Whitney Johnson proposes four principles of self-disruption, which can help foster fresh thinking:

  1. Target a need that can be met more effectively.
  2. Identify your disruptive strengths.
  3. Step back (or sideways) in order to grow.
  4. Let your strategy emerge.

According to Johnson, each of us has disruptive strengths. These are not just things we do well, they’re things we do well that most other people can’t. Finding and using our disruptive strengths can unlock our own potential, and help other people reach theirs. Johnson says that to be our best, we must courageously self-disrupt!

We all can benefit from the power of disruption. How will you harness it?

Kathryn Nobrega is a Principal Consultant with ESIS Health, Safety, Environmental & Sustainability (HSE&S) Services. Formerly with Genentech and Specialty Technical Consultants, Kathryn helps build supportive organizational cultures and drive positive change, enabling measurable improvements in business systems and HSE&S programs.

December 6, 2012 at 1:51 pm Leave a comment

Green Product Claims Should be Specific, according to FTC’s updated Green Guides

In October the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued an update to the “Green Guides,” a set of rules that govern how marketers marketers communicate a product’s environmental attributes. To learn more about how the new guidelines could impact NAEM member companies, we spoke with Mark Duvall, an attorney with Beveridge & Diamond P.C. and an expert on product regulations.

Q:  What are the Green Guides and why do you think we are seeing an update now?

MD: The Green Guides were first adopted in 1992 to provide guidance to marketers with respect to their environmental marketing claims. The intent was to help them avoid making deceptive statements that could put them in a liability. They were revised in 1996, 1998 and again this year.

It was time for an update because the nature of the environmental marketing claims changed since 1990s. Today there is more of a focus on carbon emissions and the idea that products are non-toxic, or free of particular chemicals, such as Bisphenol A or formaldehyde. Plus, over the past 15 years the FTC has brought a number of enforcement cases. It selects its enforcement cases with the eye of setting a message and this update is a way for the FTC to send that message more broadly then just through the enforcement.

Q: Can you give me an example of a potentially deceptive claim?

MD: An example that the FTC sometimes uses is “contains no CFCs”. (CFCs are Chlorofluorocarbons.) That sounds like it is a good thing because Chlorofluorocarbons are the things that work on the ozone layer and consumers might be inclined to buy a product because it contains no CFCs. But they have been prohibited in all products for years. There is nothing special about a product that has no CFCs.

Q: What are some of the key changes?

MD: It really depends on the type of claims they make. One of the things the guidelines did was to carry over most of the guidance from the previous 1990s version. The FTC clarified that the Green Guides apply to business-to-business communications. There is a common perception that the Green Guides only apply to marketing directed at individual consumers, but there is a lot of marketing directed at other businesses.

There are also new sections on certifications and fields of approval. There is also new guidance on claims of renewable energy or renewable materials, or carbon offsets, as well as “free of” claims and non-toxic claims.


Q:  What do the Green Guides say about “free of” claims?

MD: There is an interesting aspect in the “free of” claims that you can make a claim when a chemical is still present, but at a diminished amount. A good example is “formaldehyde-free”. Think of wood products that are sometimes glued together using urea formaldehyde resins. There is also formaldehyde given off from the wood itself because the wood naturally generates formaldehyde at low levels. The FTC says that you can make a “formaldehyde-free” claim if you are not using formaldehyde resins, even though there may be a small amount of formaldehyde being naturally given off by the wood.

Q:  There are so many different kinds of certifications and seals of approval out there these days, what do the Green Guides say about those?

MD: Unqualified seals and certifications are regarded as general environmental benefit claims, which are almost impossible to substantiate and therefore are considered deceptive. That makes it important to qualify appropriately the certifications to limit them to particular environmental attributes.

Q: What is an ‘unqualified certification’?

MD: Let’s say that you get a certification that says you are ‘eco-friendly’, without any qualification that explains in what way you are eco-friendly. What that does is suggest there are no environmental drawbacks for your product and that is probably not going to be the case.  If you have received an award for being eco-friendly, it is because of a particular attribute or combination of attributes. The FTC is saying it can be deceptive if you don’t limit that certification to the particular attributes for which you are receiving credit. So in other words, the FTC wants greater specificity for the particular attributes that the third party is recognizing your product.

Q: Does that inherently endorse certain certifications and discredit others because some certifications may be more general?

MD: Not automatically. It may be that some certifications are specific in the certification itself. If not, it is up the marketer to qualify that broad certification as saying we were awarded this eco-friendly certification because our product is made with renewable materials. So if the certification itself doesn’t narrow it down to the specific attributes, then the marketer may have to qualify that claim by identifying what the specific attributed are.
Q: Does the fact that these certifications often cost money have any impact on their credibility?

MD: The FTC says that the fact that you pay a fee for the services of an independent, third party to conclude the certification does not need to be disclosed because consumers expect that to happen. On the other hand, if there is an exchange of money and the third party doesn’t do any evaluation but just hand over a certification (which happened in a recent enforcement case) that is deceptive. However if the award is coming from a trade association of which you are a member, your membership has to be disclosed. The impression the consumer has is that the awarding agency is an independent third party; there is a material connection between the two it needs to be disclosed.


Q:  What about claims a company makes based on its own research?

MD: In most cases, companies will develop their own substantiation for their own marketing claims and there will not be a third party. In that case FTC has concluded that claims such as biodegradable are deceptive if the product is unlikely to biodegrade in the real world because it is disposed of a manner which precludes that.  So before companies make a product claim, they need to understand what the likely use of that product will be in the market and are responsible for making a claim based on that use.


Q:  How widespread do you think this impact is going to be?

MD: I think it is going to be significant. This is nation-wide guidance.  It is unlikely to be updated again for several years. The guidance had been proposed in 2012 and some companies responded to the proposal but others waited for the final. Now that the final is out there is no reason not to go ahead and review marketing claims in light of the green guides.

For more information on the FTC’s updated Green Guides, please visit: http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2012/10/greenguides.shtm.

December 6, 2012 at 1:50 pm Leave a comment

The Business Case for a Product Stewardship Program

Al Iannuzzi

Al Iannuzzi

Why do companies have to focus on developing a robust product stewardship program?

According to a report by the consulting firm McKinsey’s November 2011 “Resource Revolution” report, there is going to be resource scarcity that will affect product development.  Consider that there will be 3 billion more middle class consumers by 2030; the global car fleet is predicted to double to 1.7 billion by 2030; China is anticipated  to annually add two and a half times the floor space (the  size of Chicago); the cost of an oil well has doubled over past decade, and new mining discoveries has flattened despite quadrupling exploration spending.

All this leads to the conclusion that we need to make products differently than ever before. All those middle class consumers will want to have the same products as we have in the West, but where will all those raw materials come from?  The cost of raw materials will no doubt increase and become scarcer.

Addtionally, governments have been developing new regulations to force greener products to be designed.  Regulations like REACH, RoHS, WEEE and packaging design and ‘take-back’ requirements have been increasing in all regions of the world. I know for my company, Johnson & Johnson, we have initiated a governance process to insure we are in compliance with these growing types of regulations.  This is more complicated than typical EHS regulations because there are groups involved with compliance that we are not typically interfacing with, e.g. sales and marketing, packaging design, research and development (R&D).  And the regulations are not facility-specific. Compliance with the European Union’s REACH regulation, for example, can cover several different sites and R&D organizations.  When environmental regulations can affect product sales, you have to pay attention.

All these are really good reasons to have a robust product stewardship program and design greener products.  However, to me the biggest driver for upping your product stewardship program is customers demand for greener products.  When your biggest customer in the world, Wal-Mart, starts asking you for greener products, you have to respond.  This demand doesn’t only apply to the retail customer, but it is getting bigger with business-to-business customers, too.  My company has a significant amount of our sales to hospitals; and they are asking for more sustainable products.  In fact in research we recently commissioned a global survey of hospitals determined that 54% of hospitals said that green attributes are very important in their purchasing decisions.  So we are seeing that the demand for greener products is much broader than just retail consumers.

Making the business case for having a product stewardship program becomes so much easier when you can show management that the market demands greener products.   Having seen this trend coming, I was fortunate to be able to convince management to take our design for the environment program up a notch and develop a branded greener product development program.  Partnering with a third party consultant, Five Winds International, we performed benchmarking and voice of the customer interviews to come up with a process we call Earthwards®.

Having a branded program is helpful for our customers to easily identify our greener product offerings and it also helps internally to get momentum and focus on greener products.   If EHS professionals want to make a difference with their work, it becomes really exciting when you can help your business by increasing sales while making significant environmental improvements to your products.

Al Iannuzzi is a Senior Director in the Worldwide Environment, Health & Safety department at Johnson & Johnson, where he directs the global product stewardship and green marketing programs. He is the author of the books, “Greener Products: the Making & Marketing of Sustainable Brands” (CRC Press 2011) and “Industry Self-Regulation and Voluntary Environmental Compliance” (CRC Press, 2002), and has written numerous articles on product stewardship and environmental compliance.

December 6, 2012 at 1:49 pm Leave a comment

Leadership Traits of a Great President

Alex Pollock

Alex Pollock

With little Abigael from Colorado wiping away her tears as she realizes that television will no longer be dominated by the campaigning of “Bronco Bamma and Mitt Romney” we can exhale a little and watch the respective campaign teams begin their post-mortems.

We can marvel how each candidate tirelessly shared his vision, rallied an army of supporters to win the minds and votes of the electorate and in the process devoured a mountain of cash.

In his book “The President as a Leader” (2011), Michael Siegel examines the skills of five recent U.S. presidents and concludes that four qualities are essential to have a successful presidency. These are:

  • A compelling vision
  • A committed and effective team that transforms words and images into realities
  • The ability to select and deliver upon a few goals at a time
  • The wisdom to understand the consequences of decisions that are made.

Powerful as these qualities are they are not unique in my view to the presidential role. They are fundamental to anyone in a position to lead others. May these serve as reminders to each of us that leadership provides a unique window of opportunity to make a difference.

Alex Pollock has been studying leadership effectiveness for more than 30 years. A former leader in environment, health and safety, and public affairs at The Dow Chemical Co., he learned that we all have leadership roles to play. He enjoys discussing new ideas and sharing practical ways we can all become better leaders.

December 6, 2012 at 1:48 pm Leave a comment

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