Why consistency matters in corporate EHS compliance
Lessons learned and insights into what it takes to have successful EHS compliance management.
Environmental health and safety compliance (EHS compliance) is a big deal for companies around the world. It is also difficult for many companies to turn the concept into a reality without help. For many, it takes seeing compliance solutions through their peers’ perspectives and hearing from them about their experiences.
We recently had a chance to hear from Dries Van Herzele, the Corporate EHS Manager at CommScope. He has worked at CommScope for 12 years, for the last few years in corporate EHS, and has been involved in implementing a corporate EHS compliance solution with Enhesa’s help.
In a brief video, he shared his customer experience. It was clear from his words that CommScope has seen significant value in improving the consistency of its compliance. Dries noted that Enhesa brought both a consistency of measurement across sites and an overview of behavior. This was important because CommScope sites were all doing what was necessary, but there was no clear overview or consistency of action.
Just as Arnas Acas, one of our Business Development Managers, contemplated, Dries highlighted the importance of legal compliance and consistency when managing multiple sites. Under those circumstances, it’s essential to have a reliable and accurate overview that will enable you to know that you are compliant on even the small things that might otherwise be overlooked.
A consistent picture in EHS compliance
Dries isn’t the only individual to recognize the importance of consistency in corporate EHS. The overall picture itself is remarkably consistent on this. We also talked to Bruce Adler, founder of Adler Villani, LLC, an EHS consulting service specializing in EHS compliance issues and programs, and former EHS leader at GE for 28 years. His top key to success was understanding the importance of EHS compliance metrics, particularly “the ability to clearly and consistently measure performance.”
Bruce noted that collecting the right information was crucial. In an echo of ‘what matters is what’s measured,’ he noted that you tend to get what you measure. He highlighted the importance of input-based metrics to ensure that you are measuring the behavior that leads to compliance. Output-based metrics, though the preference in most fields, can be ‘fudged’ in compliance by hiding non-compliant behavior.
Dries reflected the same idea, sharing that a benefit of using Enhesa at CommScope has been the move from a reactive approach to a more proactive system. This has enabled the company to actively drive better EHS performance.
A changing EHS compliance approach for a changing world
A proactive approach to EHS compliance is important when the world is changing rapidly and unpredictably. Companies need to be able to pivot to meet new regulatory demands in different regimes and regions. When we asked our experts to make their predictions for trends in EHS compliance in 2023, there was a wide range of results. In other words, even those who would be considered ‘experts’, deep in the world of EHS compliance, do not necessarily agree on what is likely to change this year.
The only aspect on which they all agreed was that requirements would become more stringent. Few could agree on which fields or regions would tighten first or most. Several mentioned environmental issues, but this was a wide category, crossing multiple geographies.
Businesses will therefore need systems that enable them to respond rapidly to whatever governments and regulators throw at them. As Dries noted, being able to prove your legal compliance is becoming more and more important.
Our experts’ predictions also highlighted the final aspect of Dries’ comments. He explained that it was essential to have requirements available in different languages. The nuances of legal language may be lost on a non-native speaker. It’s, therefore, essential that everyone has access to information in their own language. With different changes coming around the world, local sites need to be able to see and understand what is expected of them, even in a multi-national, global context.
Tips for successful EHS compliance
Drawing on all the experience at Enhesa, together with ideas from contributors such as Dries Van Herzele and Bruce Adler, here are a few tips to help companies to achieve successful EHS compliance.
- Aim for consistency across sites—but address local needs
That is perhaps the biggest lesson emerging from the CommScope experience. You need a consistent approach across sites, but that does not mean treating every site the same. You have to recognize that sites have different needs—for example, for information in local languages—and therefore enable those needs to be met within a consistent framework.
- Use EHS training to create a culture supporting EHS compliance.
You cannot expect staff to absorb information by osmosis. Creating a culture of EHS compliance requires training to build a positive health and safety culture. As with your system for monitoring compliance, training should be both general and site-specific, meeting local and international needs.
- Raise the priority of EHS compliance by highlighting its importance to sustainability reporting.
We all find it easier to do something if we understand its importance. EHS compliance is not a stand-alone issue. As noted by Jillian Stacy, Business Manager for Enhesa Sustainable Chemistry, it’s an essential contributor to sustainability reporting. The quality of the evidence that EHS compliance provides may be crucial to many companies’ ESG monitoring and reporting.
EHS compliance: Your first line of defense
EHS compliance cannot be seen in isolation. As governments around the world move towards requiring more sustainability reporting, EHS compliance also makes a crucial contribution to the business. As Jillian Stacy commented, EHS is both the company’s first line of defense in protecting employees and the environment and the first step in other business initiatives. It’s not surprising that consistency is seen as so important.