How “sustainable” is your EHS program?

Frank Brandauer

For the last couple years it seemed like all we heard about was Sustainability, everything from Sustainable Businesses, to Sustainable Products and Sustainable Energy. Based on the last couple weeks it appears the one thing that we do not have is a Sustainable Economy.

Given the severity of the economic meltdown and the inevitable fallout in terms of spending, resource cuts and layoffs the real question is “how sustainable is your EHS program?”

Is your program robust enough to survive without significant failures (releases, fatalities, violations, fines) or has it been “leaned” out to the point that you are already in trouble?

Can you rely on the strength and integration of your EHS Management Systems to see you through these hard times? While everyone’s answers will be different, I believe that we all have more in common than we may suspect.

If it turns out that you will need a fallback position, where do you draw the line? Something tells me that we will see a resurgence in talk about the importance of regulatory compliance and worker safety, two areas that are in reality the foundation of any sustainability program.

It’s time to start thinking about how to respond to questions like “How do you know that you are actually in compliance?” and you might want to also revisit your incident reporting and audit systems.

Truth is, we’ve been through tough economic times before—the problem is that I’m worried that it’s never been this severe before. Because of this, I think, if there’s every a time to get real, inventory your resources, and determine what is important and how you are going to deliver it, it’s now.

About Frank Brandauer

Frank Brandauer is the Vice President of Regulatory Affairs at Therapak Corp. and a former member of the NAEM Board of Directors.

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  1. Bruce K.

    October 22, 2008

    As much as I would like to think that EHS is “special” and should be treated differently than the rest of our business, that is not going to be the case at most companies – whether it’s good times or bad. I also think continued discussion along these lines by EHS professionals can undermine the confidence of executives in an EHS organization – they will conclude that the EHS team “just doesn’t get it” or “doesn’t understand how a business is run”. From my vantage point the new emphasis on sustainability is very welcome in that it sheds light on the value that EHS and related functions (e.g. faciltiies) can bring to a business. It also brings huge opportunities for EHS professionals to reinvigorate themselves by learning new things (e.g. how many of us wee familiar with carbon accounting -7 years ago?) I am more convinced than ever that the EHS conundrum (where strong EHS commitments are not always reflected in resource decisions) is greater emphasis on simple and effective management systems where all employees help deliver results and carry the load. NAEM can continue playing a role in promoting this approach and in providing the tools and skills.

  2. Kelvin

    October 23, 2008

    Good points… I view this as an opportunity to “lean out” your management systems. Tough economic times require us to be more creative and it can leave us in a better position coming out of these tough times if done right

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