My family and friends know that I’ve been working in the environmental field for over 20 years. My wife proudly tells people, “Stephen got awards from Carol Browner and the Secretary of Defense for his environmental leadership work.” So when an environmental issue enters the zeitgeist friends will ask me about it. The question is usually posed with an expectation of a good news story. You know what I’m talking about.
Unfortunately, over the past several years we’ve witnessed a steady stream of negative news stories about how certain businesses acted while a de-regulatory philosophy prevailed within the federal government. I am not going to cite specific examples here, but I bet you can name one or two off the top of your head.
Since the modern EHS movement became part of the mainstream, business has advocated that voluntary standards are a more efficient and effective way of managing EHS issues than regulation. But, in the wake of numerous stories on environmental misdeeds during an era lacking in aggressive oversight and enforcement, and coming on the heels of the banking and finance meltdown, my family and friends have become wary. As my teenage son put it, “gee pops, looks like business blew it.”
Yes, it’s not fair and it paints business and industry with one very broad brush. But, I’ve been unsuccessful coming up with a persuasive response. I wonder…has the worm turned? Are we entering an era of re-regulation and public skepticism of business in EHS issues? What have your family and friends been telling you?
What do you think?
You can meet Stephen and hear him speak at the NAEM EHS Management Forum in October on the topic of corporate survival skills for EHS managers.