The beginning of each year brings a refreshed outlook to, well, pretty much everything. It also brings predictions for the future and inquiries into what developments may occur in the upcoming months.

Last year was full of controversial environmental policy activities; perhaps the most dramatic was the United States’ formal notification of withdrawal from the Paris Accord. However, for regulated companies, the importance of compliance will not waver.

Companies continue to move full steam ahead despite fluctuations in policies, and EHS teams around the globe remain steadfast toward the goal of compliance. This makes sense, given the abundance of regulations that companies must comply with, the complexity of the unique requirements, and the influx of newly proposed regulations.

Requirements vary greatly across the globe and consultants at Enhesa focus on different jurisdictions. Each year, we compile a summary of information into our yearly forecaster webinar that you are encouraged to listen to if you missed it in December. When looked at comprehensively, the information provided by our consultants shows a trend in certain global themes for the past year. For example: climate change, plastic regulation, and the rights of workers, particularly female workers, were areas of focus for many regions around the world.

These trends from last year are telling because they reflect what is likely important moving forward this year. With that in mind, let’s see a snapshot of what our consultants uncovered in 2019.

 

Climate Change Initiatives Around the Globe:

United Kingdom

Passed legislation to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

France

“Energy-Climate Act” (Projet de loi Energie-Climat) is making its way through Parliament. If the law is passed, it will set several targets which lead to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.

The Netherlands

The Climate Act entered into force. The Act aims to reduce GHG emissions by 45% by 2030, and by 2050 achieve absolute carbon neutral energy production and a 95% reduction of GHG emissions.

 

Argentina and the Dominican Republic

Presented Law Proposals for controlling the emission of Greenhouse Gases, with Argentina possibly declaring a situation of climate emergency in the following months. If the climate emergency is declared, the country would have to progressively reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and reach 0 net emissions by 2050, as well as strive for an energy consumption program based 100% on renewable energy.

South Africa

Introduced a Carbon Tax (The Carbon Tax Act) which it will continue to enforce at least through 1 January 2023. Read more on South Africa.

China

Instituted the national carbon trading system among facilities in power industries (capped at an annual emission limit of 26,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent). These facilities will continue to participate in the carbon emission trading system in 2020.

 

Plastic Regulation:

European Union

New directive entered into force on 2 July 2019 banning certain types of single-use plastics. For plastics without a simple replacement, the directive introduces measures based on decreasing their use.

Mexico and Latin America

Several Mexican states have either introduced legislation limiting the use of plastic products or proposed their prohibition. The Spanish speaking countries of Latin America are still following their trend of banning or severely limiting the use of single-use plastics in the continent.

Africa

As of July 2019, 34 African countries issued a form of legislation on the use, manufacture, import, export, sale or disposal of plastic products.

 

 

Rights of Female Workers and Worker Health and Safety Generally:

United States

Texas House Bill 541 amends the Texas Health and Safety Code, entitling a mother to express breast milk in any location in which her presence is otherwise authorized.

Companies in Oregon must now provide reasonable rest periods and private locations for breastfeeding.

Washington D.C.’s “Protecting Female Workers Fairness Act of 2014” is amended to require that reasonable accommodations be made for workers whose ability to perform the functions of a job are limited by pregnancy, childbirth, a related medical condition, or breastfeeding.

Latin America

Argentina, Ecuador, the Dominican Republic, the Argentinian Province of Buenos Aires, and the Mexican State of Michoacan all introduced regulatory proposals requiring companies to set up nursing rooms in their facilities if they employ over 50 female employees in child-bearing age or one employee currently breastfeeding.

Japan, Singapore, Thailand

Starting next year (2020), Japan will institute requirements for a smoking room in the workplace.

Starting in 2019, Singapore requires facilities, office buildings, and their common areas to be non-smoking zones. Smoking rooms will have requirements.

In Thailand, companies that own or manage a building used as a public place, like retail stores or offices, must designate a non-smoking area and post a non-smoking sign in the building.

 

Things to Keep in Mind:

The consistency with which these pressing issues are becoming a priority around the globe is fascinating. As EHS professionals, it is important to both follow the trends in your regions but to also be aware of the specific requirements within the jurisdictions that you operate in. For instance, if you have a major operation in the APAC region of the world and you notice that many countries are instituting smoking restrictions, then perhaps you should check your locations and, even if there are no current restrictions, you should be proactive in implementing changes before the trend comes to you.

Similarly, if you are a manufacturer of plastics or if your product requires certain plastic to be used in the supply chain, you should confirm whether that plastic component will continue to be available in the coming year(s).

If you are a manufacturer that emits greenhouse gasses, then you need to be aware of changing policies for controlling climate change, and you must do this while at the same time keeping up with your specific local requirements. Half the battle is knowing what you need to do today and yet keeping your eye open for tomorrow.

This is the start of a new decade. With it, new challenges, new policies, and new trends will come to pass. As you press forward into the new year, equip yourself by understanding last year’s pattern and setting new goals and resolutions for the future.

Want More? Click Here for our Regulatory Forecaster Product.