Becoming Recession Proof


Alex Pollock

Have you stumbled across any good news recently? Isn’t it gripping to see if tomorrow can be even worse than yesterday? Given this steady diet of doom and gloom I’m not surprised by the worry I detect in the voices of my EHS colleagues these days. There is concern about job security…and concern about the future form of our EHS programs given the economic uncertainties facing most companies as recession worries deepen.

What advice should we be sharing with EHS colleagues to make us more recession proof? Now is a good time to offer sage words of encouragement. I been through more than my fair share of “rightsizing” initiatives over the last 15 years and I’d like your reaction to the advice I’ve been giving those closest to me. I believe the answer goes way beyond the obvious “be liked by your boss and your boss’s boss”. Let me suggest 3 actions to take:

Play To Your Strengths
Do you know what you’re really great at? What are your professional passions? If you don’t know, find out. Those closest to you have already observed what you get excited about, what you deliver superior results at, what fuels you…ask them. Find work opportunities that are dominated by your unique talents.

Build An External Professional Network
Be deliberate in building relationships with those outside your company who know and value your professional passions. Seek opportunities to share and learn from this network regularly. Association with professional groups like NAEM is an excellent way to develop these relationships.

Gain Professional Certification
As EHS professionals we have a unique opportunity to be recognized for our expertise by a 3rd party. I have seen the difference certification makes in the job market. Getting a CSP, an ROH or a CIH is important. Grab the opportunity. Once you get certified work creatively to maintain it.

I know you have opinions on this subject. I’d love to read them…as would your EHS colleagues. Let’s share!

About Alex Pollock

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.

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  1. David Williams

    December 8, 2008

    Very good advice, especially from the perspective of the individual. Defintely should play to your strengths, build an external network and gain appropriate certifications.

    Something to not lose sight of is that the work anyone does, regardless of function within an organization, should provide a high level of value that supports the organization’s objectives. In the role of EHS business partner for an operating division with 5 manufacturing sites we spent a lot of time integrating the EHS function into the operating unit’s strategic plan. A big part of this was linking EHS with an Operational Excellence (Lean/Six Sigma) initiative and also aligning EHS with the Quality function. Once we did that we: 1)demonstrated how EHS contributes to achieving strategic objectives; 2) started using the same language (Lean/Six Sigma terminology) to remove the artifical “uniqueness” of EHS and focused on common interests (driving down errors, streamlining work and providing value to the customer); and 3)showed how “EHS” activities, such as critical task analysis and task observation, could be used for non-EHS areas such as quality. EHS was then viewed as an integral part of the operations, seen as contributing to the success of the organization and as recession-proof as any other aspect of running the business.

  2. Scott Berna

    December 8, 2008

    EHS is a great field and enjoyed by those involved. However, in this day and age with the way companies are always “right-sizing”, the need to integrate an associated field is greatly needed. Take some Facilities and/or Security Management classes, both areas closely associated with EHS, and you do become more valuable.

  3. V. Toast

    February 17, 2009

    For certifications, you might want to consider a QEP. Offered by the Institute of Professional Environmental Practice (of which NAEM is a participating organization), the QEP (Qualified Environmental Professional) certification offers exams in Policy, Water, Air, or Waste management. They also offer a beginning certification for those with less than five years of experience; the EPI (Environmental Professional Intern.)

    Check them out at

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