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What can EHS leaders do to support sustainability in their organizations?

Q:

What can EHS leaders do to support sustainability in their organizations?

A:

Occupational health and safety and sustainability are considered essential elements to the success of an organization’s business operations. Both are interrelated and without pursuing one strategy, the other would not be adequately developed.

Here are 5 things EHS leaders can do to support sustainability in their organizations.

1. Define sustainability

The first step is to define precisely what is meant by sustainability. To come up with an adequate definition, examine your organization's mission and ask yourself questions like:

  • What is the business trying to accomplish?
  • Who are the stakeholders?
  • What is mutually important to the stakeholders and the business?
  • How can the business operate in a way that is consistent with these values?

2. Drive the discussion

EHS leaders have become experts at change—they have helped transform safety from one priority among others into a core value. As such, they play a crucial role in guiding the discussion on sustainability, especially since they are experienced in risk assessment and resource management. EHS leaders, then, can help general management develop sustainability goals and integrate them into policies, business plans, and strategies.

3. Guide the development of a sustainability framework

A good framework will guide decisions for future planning, as well as highlight the relationships of all the parties involved. EHS leaders can help develop such a framework by asking themselves:

  • How does the goal of sustainability support the overall mission of the organization?
  • What are the key relationships among clients, employees, stakeholders, the public, and the environment at each stage of the business operation?
  • What are the major milestones to be accomplished?
  • What needs exist in the local community, or what problems exist that we can address?

4. Bridge the gap

EHS leaders can help to bridge the gap between safety and sustainability by guiding the development of core disciplines and principles related to:

  • Management systems – What systems are currently in place and do they work together to achieve the organization’s sustainability objectives?
  • Governance – Is there a formal structure that supports sustainability decision-making, accountability, and actions?
  • Expertise – How do we promote the values that drive sustainability among company leaders?
  • Scorecard - How do we track sustainability data and what benchmarks do we use?

5. Create engagement

EHS leaders are pioneers in engagement. As such, they can help develop:

  • Impact awareness – How does the organization perceive its role and its impact on both their internal and external stakeholders?
  • Organizational support – What are the perceptions of employees, clients, and the local community with regards to the organization’s concern for them?
  • Recognition – To what extent do employees, clients, and stakeholders perceive that their involvement with the organization makes a difference?
  • Participation – Do those in leadership positions involve both internal and external stakeholders in the decision-making process when it comes to sustainability?


For a more in-depth open discussion on this topic, join EHSQ Community members Ron Gantt and Randy Cadieux as they provide an overview of how to create sustainable performance and achieve organizational goals through safety. View this free Webinar HERE

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Written by Tamara Parris
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Community Manager of the EHSQ Community and owner of EHSQ Professionals group on LinkedIn. My passion is working with other environment, health & safety, and quality professionals to collaborate in thought leadership, networking with new people, and connecting industry peers to resources that drive continuous improvement in EHSQ.

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