The EHS Professional’s Role in Sustainability
Many aspects of industrial sustainability fall squarely under the purview of the environmental, health and safety (EHS) function, such as regulatory compliance, environmental management systems, employee safety, and in some companies, product attributes such as design for the environment.
Many companies have placed responsibility for sustainability within EHS, and some of those have expanded and strengthened EHS accordingly. Others have instituted sustainability as a broader organization that draws on or includes EHS as well as supply chain, operations, engineering, marketing, etc.
In either case, EHS is a core area of sustainability and EHS expertise in project, system and regulatory management is critical for driving sustainability strategy, setting goals and approving initiatives. EHS knowledge of existing strengths and weaknesses, personnel and processes, and regulatory agency relationships makes them uniquely qualified to help define reachable objectives, pinpoint major obstacles and quantify the necessary resources to complete sustainability projects.
EHS professionals typically have unique expertise at working with disparate departments to accomplish goals that often may seem at odds with their primary missions. Their role may traditionally have been seen as policing – a necessary cost but a drag on productivity and profits. Sustainability offers EHS a high-visibility opportunity to contribute to the other side of the ledger, helping to cut costs, increase revenues and improve their company’s competitive position.