The impact of the economy on business and the EHS profession has shifted our discussion from “how to survive a really bad year” to “how to provide EHS value in a reset worldwide business model”– a question that is likely to define the reality of most EHS managers and professionals for a generation to come.
So what then is this new reset worldwide business model going to look like? One hint can perhaps be seen in an interesting article in the LA Times (1/25/09, “As the Economy Slumps, So Does Trash”). It describes how changing life styles, consumption patterns, construction, recycling, etc., has resulted in landfills seeing a 30% decrease in waste tonnage as well as revenues from associated tipping fees. One of the article’s primary conclusions is that “People aren’t producing as much garbage because they’re not buying as much.”
While this trend demonstrates a direct environmental benefit in terms of the consumption of raw materials, recycling and waste disposal, the more profound message is that people are and will be buying less now and into the foreseeable future. It would appear that we are just starting to see some of other the consequences of a more “economically sustainable” world.
Even as industry uses, makes and sells less & budgets and resources shrink, we know that the majority of EHS risks, liabilities and requirements (both legal and stakeholder) will remain. So how does EHS operate in this new business reality, or is it really to soon to know?