The pandemic’s disruption has impacted EHS across all industries. In retail, the function’s visibility and value have become dramatically elevated.

Environment, health & safety (EHS) leaders in retail aren’t exactly used to being in the spotlight. Now, they’ve emerged as the de facto superstars of 2020.

Historically speaking, EHS has been a relatively understated priority when it comes to the world of brick-and-mortar retail stores, often hidden from a customer’s view and a manager’s mind. Seemingly overnight, the advent of COVID-19 has flipped the script, sending EHS to the very top of retail priority lists. Retailers must now reframe the entire customer experience into one that is geared to emphasize hygiene and mitigate spread of the virus.
For EHS management in retail, it’s showtime.

The truth is that the added challenge for EHS professionals in retail actually provides a wealth of opportunity to prove their value, by bolstering their brand’s reputation while keeping their loyal customers safe. Leadership is partnering with EHS at a whole new level, and their voices are being taken more seriously. This is where EHS managers can implement policies and provide a framework to make sure that health and safety remains a continual focus instead of a background nice-to-have.

A Critical Junction for Brick-and-Mortar Retail

Although online shopping had already solidified itself as a juggernaut commercial force in the pre-COVID world, the pandemic has enticed businesses to migrate even further towards the horizon of online offerings to meet consumer demand.

That said, the allure of shopping from home only amplifies the importance of meaningful in-store interactions and impactful customer experiences. In order to compel customers to want to come out and shop in person, businesses must ensure that buyers feel safe doing so. It’s the job of EHS to define and implement adequate - and visible - safety measures.

More than a Few Questions for Retail EHS

  • Will there be stickers on the floor helping people stay six feet apart in lines?
  • Will there be personnel at the door asking questions to filter people who might be sick?
  • What will the protocol be for things like trying on clothes or shoes ... or other activities where physical touching is necessary?
  • Will you require that customers wear facemasks while in your store? If so, how will you ensure this policy is enforced and how will you address objections?

As we slowly move toward a semblance of (new) normalcy, retail EHS leaders are being tasked to help answer these questions, implement country, regional, and national guidelines across the globe, and define what the in-store experience of 2020 (and beyond) looks like. Doing so in a way that protects their brand while maintaining a happy and healthy working environment for both employees and customers is no small task -- it’s easy to see why many are feeling the strain. The eyes of management, executive stakeholders, and customers themselves are all on EHS.

The key for EHS professionals is to entrench their function as a long-term operational fixture. The world will be forever changed by this coronavirus pandemic, with health and safety in shared spaces becoming a greater focus until (and likely after) an effective vaccine is widely available.

For the EHS Retail Leaders reading this, this is the time for EHS to take center stage. Your EHS role is critical to the safety and satisfaction of customers who are increasingly being drawn to ecommerce. There is no doubt that your role and the company’s attention to EHS is vital today, and will continue to be vital tomorrow and for the future of retail. Those in the industry might consider coming together to share knowledge and innovate new solutions, through consortiums and global networks like EHSxRetail and Inogen Alliance.

Of course, while this is an opportunity, it's also a challenge, bringing greater burden to a department that already tends to be short-staffed. The stakes are too high for retail EHS professionals to extend themselves beyond the point of effectiveness.

Antea Group has the capabilities to lighten this considerable load. For those recognizing a need for additional personnel, Antea Group offers Resourcing-as-a-Service (RaaS) to allow retail businesses to call upon the extra support of experienced on-site EHS specialists to provide a crucial helping hand just when you need it. Or maybe you just need clarification on a local regulation; our COVID-19 Help Desk is a quick and cost-effective way to get the answers you need. Our support to the retail industry can be scaled to fit your needs in one location or with one question or across the globe dealing with complex challenges.

For more information on how you can leverage Antea Group’s expertise to excel at this critical time in retail, simply reach out and contact us. Together, we can help ensure your business navigates the new, high-stakes ground of brick-and-mortar EHS in the best way possible.

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