Emerging risks in EHS and sustainability: What our clients say
What EHS&S trends are top of mind for companies like yours? Our clients say that these 3 emerging risks stand out above the rest.
We asked our clients to identify the 3 issues that were currently ‘top of mind’ for them, meaning those most important to their business. Of the 140 responses, almost half (68, or 48.6%) mentioned sustainability reporting or environmental, social and governance (ESG) reporting. No other factor was mentioned by more than 40% of respondents.
It’s interesting to note that our experts have found companies that are already ahead on environmental health and safety reporting have a head start on ESG reporting. They generally have better data and have become accustomed to mining it for information and insights. The requirements for ESG reporting may be different than for EHS, but the sources of information are the same. The issue is therefore to help others to reach this same understanding and be able to draw on their existing data to solve this problem.
Emerging risks in environmental issues
The next most important factor from the annual survey, carbon emissions management, capping, trading and taxation, was mentioned by 54 respondents, or 38.6%. It was closely followed by energy efficiency and resource management, identified by 48 respondents, or 34.3%. Both these are far fewer than the number highlighting ESG reporting, but still represent considerable concern.
These were key issues were highlighted by our experts in their own trend-spotting survey. Over half of them identified environmental issues as a key trend. Several specifically mentioned emissions, carbon taxation, and climate change mitigation. Others commented on improving resource management or the move to renewable energy. There is clearly consensus between both experts and clients that environmental issues will feature heavily over the next 12 months.
Zeroing in on carbon emissions
It’s certainly true that environmental issues are taking a larger role on the world stage—and that businesses are expected to take action to address climate change. Governments everywhere are tightening legislation to ensure that this happens. There is huge awareness of the global emissions reduction targets and move towards zero carbon emissions among businesses, and concerns about how these will be reached. This is one trend that is definitely not going to disappear in the next year or so.
Other environmental issues highlighted by both clients and experts were waste management and wastewater management. Waste management regulations were mentioned by 45 respondents, or 32.1% and wastewater management by 38 people, or 27.1%. These were also both identified by several of our experts. One expert commented that waste management was a particular issue in certain countries, and mentioned new legislation being introduced in Spain.
Overall, just under one-fifth of respondents (17.9%) cited single use plastics, plastic pollution or recycling strategies as an issue for their business. A total of 17 (12.1%) mentioned per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), substances found in non-stick cookware, stain-resistant carpets and grease-resistant packaging. These are considered to be emerging contaminants, and scientific consensus is growing on their adverse health effects, resulting in increasing attention from regulators. Both these issues were also cited by our experts, either as a compliance issue, or an environmental one.
Concerns about health and safety at work
Another category that was cited by both clients and experts was health and safety at work. Two main issues were mentioned here. The first was chemical management in the workplace, which was highlighted by 47 respondents to the annual survey, or 33.6% (the fourth-most commonly mentioned category). This was also identified as a trend by one of our experts, but only one. This suggests that it is not top of mind for most of them. This is an interesting mismatch, especially because this area is expected to become increasingly important in the US, where successive administrations have been keen to tighten up regulations and enforcement.
The other issue that was highlighted by both experts and clients was teleworking. This issue has emerged from the pandemic, and many organizations are still grappling with their responsibilities in this area. There’s growing consensus that businesses need to help and support staff to ensure their health and safety wherever they work, including at home. However, the details of how this will happen are still being developed.
While this hasn’t historically been a huge issue for all of our clients, it’s worth being aware of its importance for some organizations. It’s clear that several of our experts are following this area with interest and expect to see it becoming more important over the next year.
More on emerging risks for multi-national businesses
Overall, there was reasonable consensus among our clients and experts that the big–ticket emerging risks in EHS and sustainability for the rest of this year will mainly be in the environmental area. They are also generally driven by increasing regulation, which further reinforces the critical need to have a wider-reaching view of evolving requirements in your jurisdictions. To learn more about today’s EHS&S challenges and the regulatory developments behind them, read the full insights report.