EHS insights from EHSxTech

Crowd-Source Your EHS Challenges: Lessons from EHSxTech in Silicon Valley

October 29th, 2018

The technology industry is in a unique position, facing increasing scrutiny from both the public and government, while also in a period of staggering growth and change. Although the growth and change is exciting, companies find themselves fighting to maintain their valuable brand and unique culture while achieving and remaining in compliance in the face of changing regulations and fast-paced global expansion. EHS leadership and resourcing can be a significant issue, often with just a few people overseeing hundreds of locations and innovative and ever-changing operations, sometimes with EHS as only one part of their role. Newer companies and startups face the additional challenge of building a program from scratch and communicating it into a still-developing culture.

Crowd-Sourcing EHS Challenges

At the most recent EHSxTech gathering, we asked attendees (who represent some of the biggest names in the industry) to tell us which hot-button issues are current top-of-mind for them and to share best practices that were working for them:

  1. Dealing with stakeholders: In a global organization, building relationships with stakeholders can be complex and extremely time-consuming, especially once you consider cross-site and cross-geography reporting structures, language, and cultural factors, and uncertainty about who owns what risk. Despite the difficulties, everyone agreed that stakeholder relationships and buy-in were critical to EHS success in the long run. Some of the advice shared included touching multiple functions with your message so that it reaches the C-suite from multiple channels, implementing a single point of contact whenever possible (but not the risk owner), and remembering that stakeholder relations are not just about EHS goals, but also about human connections.
     
  2. Dogs in the workplace: While it sounds like a lot of fun and games to have dogs at work, it presents numerous safety challenges including establishing and enforcing clear policies, managing emotional support dogs, accommodating employee allergies or fears, avoiding lease violations, and navigating the inevitably high emotions that surround the issue. Some of the best practices suggested included having a dog oversight committee to enforce policies, limiting dogs to certain floors, requiring dogs to be registered and have ID tags, and implementing a three-strike policy after which a dog would no longer be allowed on the premises.
     
  3. Global compliance: Tech companies often find themselves in the position of building an EHS program from scratch, in the case of start-ups, or expanding and adapting a program as a more established company rapidly expands and evolves--both situations can create real challenges with maintaining global compliance. Participants recommended starting from a gap analysis and then prioritizing (remembering to run your results through regional contacts for localized expertise), partnering with other functions while bearing in mind that safety is only one part of their role, and treating consultants like “professors” as a resource to help you learn and grow.

Staying Ahead of the Curve

There’s a lot of uncharted territory out there, and industry norms are still forming, so be realistic and expect some trial and error. A big part of EHS success comes from just listening (both to your internal stakeholders and your peers) and being open and creative in your approach to new issues and new ideas.

Read past event insights or learn more about EHSxTech.

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