The Great Reset and the EHS Manager

Stephen Evanoff

Stephen Evanoff

“This economic crisis doesn’t represent a cycle. It represents a reset. It’s an emotional, raw social, economic reset. People who understand that will prosper. Those who don’t will be left behind” — Jeffery Immelt, CEO, General Electric

In his latest book, “The Great Reset,” Dr. Richard Florida, author of “The Rise of the Creative Class” and “Who’s Your City?” examines the impact of the recent economic meltdown on how we will work and live over the next generation. Florida argues that the prolonged recession of the 1880s – 1890s and the Great Depression of the 1930s led to economic resets and bursts of innovation that fundamentally changed the way we worked and lived, and that we are entering another reset period.

His analysis of the impact of the current recession is that the current economic reset will move us away from boom and bust cycles based on energy, automobiles and real estate. He concludes that the following patterns will take hold as we move through this economic reset period:

  • New patterns of consumption and new attitudes toward ownership that are less centered on houses and cars
  • The transformation of millions of service jobs into middle-class careers that engage workers as a source of innovation
  • New forms of infrastructure that will speed the movement of people, goods and ideas
  • A radically altered and much denser economic landscape organized around “megaregions” that will drive the development of new industries, new jobs and a whole new way of life.

One can certainly debate whether or not Dr. Florida is correct in his forecast of these new patterns. But, if he’s close to the mark, the world of the EHS manager will look vastly different than it does today.

How will we approach workplace safety in a world where service people and assembly line workers evolve into career professionals who add value to products and services? What will be the impact on environmental protection as people shift away from consuming goods to consuming services and auto travel gives way to mass transit and other alternative methods of transportation?
What changes do you foresee for EHS professionals if these patterns emerge?

I would especially be interested in the perspective of The Millennial Generation and Gen X, since you will spend your careers living The Great Reset.

About Stephen Evanoff

Stephen Evanoff is Vice President of Environment, Health and Safety for Danaher Corp. and President of NAEM’s Board of Directors. Follow him on Twitter at @SteveEvanoff.

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  1. Dean Clevett

    October 2, 2010

    I would use the term structural change rather than “Great Reset” and consider it as a levelling of the economic landscape between the so called first world and the BRIC countries, but the net result is the same either way. There will be fundamental and permanent changes to the job markets for all demographic groups as a result.

    While the market segments where bubbles occur and burst will change as Dr. Florida suggests, it will not be the end of the business cycle. Personally, I don’t foresee the end of the need for EHS professionals. However, I definitely foresee more of them operating as independent consultants rather than in house service platforms. As a result, skill sets that would be of benefit to Gen’s X and Y are entrepreneurial in nature. However, this seems to be a natural inclination for many of them, from the trends that I have been observing. As such, they may be better prepared in the long run than those of us at the tail end of the Boomer generation.

    • Stephen Evanoff

      October 6, 2010


      Thanks for clarifying that this analysis applies only to the United States. I wasn’t explicit on that point.

      In the book, Dr. Florida discusses the phenomenon that BRIC countries continue to experience economic booms, while the US languishes in recession and starts down a path of structural change.

      Thanks for your thoughts on the varioius impacts to the EHS professionand how you think we will respond.

  2. Dean Clevett

    January 9, 2011

    I didn’t mean to imply that the analysis only applied to the US. I believe that it applies to all developed countries, as we’re clearly seeing structural change here in Canada as well and I believe they are experiencing it in the EU also, although perhaps to a lesser extent. Obviously, someone from the EU would be better qualified to comment on that.

    By the way, if you’re interested in Dr Florida’s books, you may find Dr Umair Haque interesting as well. He and Dr Florida have a lot in common, intellectually. He just released a new book this month that looks at how to respond to some of the issues that Dr Florida and others have raised.

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