This week, NAEM announced the preliminary program for the 2015 EHS Management Forum in Charlotte. To get a peek at the thinking behind this year’s theme and the sessions-in-progress, we spoke to Virginia Hoekenga, NAEM Deputy Director, who guides the development of the Forum program.
GT: What is the importance of this year’s Forum theme?
VH: The theme “finding solutions, leading forward” reflects the practical results that EHS&S leaders will get at the forum and must deliver for their organizations. This focus on real-world solutions is what allows companies to lead. For NAEM it’s always important to keep the focus on taking aspiration and moving it into operation, and that’s what this year’s Forum is all about.
GT: What were the core discussion areas for those on the Forum planning committee? How are those ideas reflected in the tracks?
VH: The Forum committee strives to strike the right balance between sessions that provide information on emerging issues with those that attendees can use to solve the more immediate challenges of EHS and sustainability leadership. Regardless of the focus, though, the goal is always to deliver tools and tactics our members can take back to work with them.
This year’s tracks reflect both apertures. Managing EHS & Sustainability issues in the broader context of risk has always been and continues to be an important paradigm for NAEM members. This year, we’ve dedicated an entire track to the topic (“Applying a Risk Lens”), which we will explore through sessions on global regulatory trends, understanding Board-level expectations and managing risk during workforce changes. Another big-picture area is reflected in our track on “Managing Sustainability in a Changing Environment,” which will offer sustainability discussions in the context of the constant change in global business, and the increasingly evident changes to the climate. Of course, none of this work gets done without skilled EHS and sustainability teams, effective training and engaged employees, which we’ve bundled together in the track we’re calling “Managing and Developing EHS Teams.” And finally, our track on “Optimizing EHS Performance” came about as the committee discussed the need to continue to manage the core requirements of the job, even as more and more responsibilities and issue areas are added. You have to remain ‘brilliant at the basics,’ even when you are doing way more than managing the basics.
GT: How does the Forum development process yield such a unique result?
VH: Peer-to-peer conferences aren’t that different in and of themselves, but the hand-crafted nature of the Forum content, which comes to life through a nine-month discussion among the 30+ committee members is really unique. The resulting 24 sessions and 70+ speakers is a true reflection of “the conversation” in the profession today. It’s also very relatable. At the Forum, we’re not telling polished stories about how anyone has all the answers. It’s about finding solutions using creativity, persuasion and collaboration—and then, of course, leading forward.
To see the full list of sessions on the agenda for the 2015 EHS Management Forum, please visit: http://ehsforum.naem.org/agenda.php.