Antea Group recently hosted our EHSxRetail event in-person (and virtually)! We were lucky enough to gather at Burberry in New York to discuss all things EHS-related with retail industry members – thank you to our host Russell Del’Re, Health and Safety Manager at Burberry for making this meeting possible. The lively discussion focused on how EHS has changed over the pandemic years and what the rising focus on ESG means for the retail industry.
The discussion was led by Angie Dickson, Vice President, Kelly Sampliner, Retail Industry Leader, Nate Kimball, Sustainability Practice Leader, and Lauren Corbett-Noon, EHS Auditing and Compliance Practice Leader.
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The Current State of EHS
After struggling through the pandemic years and the ups and (many) downs along the way, many EHS professionals feel that now is the time to hit reset on their EHS programs. The pandemic changed the workplace in many ways including heightening the role of EHS leaders and bringing their work into the spotlight. COVID-19 really brought EHS leaders to the forefront and now these leaders can leverage that position to continue pushing key initiatives and keep the conversation going on related EHS topics.
As one participant suggested, these are the “Golden Years of EHS” - now more than ever stakeholders see the value and importance of maintaining a culture of safety, giving EHS professionals the buy-in they need to improve programs within their companies.
That being said, many feel that now is the perfect time to re-establish, reorganize, and revitalize their EHS programs. The pandemic taught us a lot of lessons and as we shift into a “post-pandemic” world, the workplace looks different than it did two years ago. For example, with labor shortages and high turnover, EHS training needs to become more efficient and less time-consuming and go beyond simply “checking boxes.” EHS programs need to evolve to meet the new needs of the workplace.
Keeping Your Seat at the Table
So now that the pandemic has helped some EHS professionals grab their seat at the table, it’s time to work to keep that seat. Participants felt that now is the time to take the EHS momentum from COVID-19 and carry that forward into new initiatives by continuing to bring fresh perspectives and create sustained engagement by employees and leadership around EHS.
This time is a pivotal moment within EHS and the actions we take now will carry us into the future of EHS.
Some ways people are keeping EHS relevant in the conversation is by demonstrating how investing in EHS positively impacts the bottom line while others are working closely with their Human Resource teams to keep EHS in front of employees and on-board new hires with the right EHS training. The key is to work on keeping the right message in front of all stakeholders – from employees to leadership.
How ESG Relates to EHS
One shift we are seeing now is a greater focus on ESG. ESG stands for Environmental, Social, and Governance. Together, these three aspects make up a framework to evaluate concerns pertaining to a company’s long-term health and prosperity. For many investors, it’s not enough to check off two boxes and leave one totally blank. They’re searching for thoughtful, forward-looking policies and programs in all three of these areas.
While ESG-related ideas have always been around in the retail industry (not always called ESG), it’s becoming a greater focus across all industries in recent years. We may not be seeing a lot of demand for ESG in retail now, we can expect that demand to grow in years to come based on the trends in the world of investing and reporting and disclosures.
Luckily, many ESG topics overlap with the work already being done by EHS professionals. For example, ESG includes the overall health and safety of employees and the community - something EHS professionals are already working hard on. That being said, it’s going to be very important for EHS professionals to be in the room when ESG strategies are being discussed. Whether they realize it or not, EHS professionals likely already have data and practices that can contribute to an ESG strategy and it’s important to advocate for EHS needs to ensure that leaders are aligning ESG strategies with EHS initiatives.
Better Understanding ESG
It's not unheard of for EHS professionals to not be very comfortable talking ESG. With trends and stakeholder demands pushing ESG into the spotlight, EHS professionals need to work on incorporating more ESG language into their initiatives and practices. Understand that ESG is not just a sustainability play or a set of environmental goals – it's an all-encompassing framework that helps to tell your company's story.
There are four main frameworks that drive ESG reporting:
- Global Reporting Initiative (GRI)
- Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB)
- Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)
- Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD)
Understanding these frameworks will help in setting goals and objectives that align with stakeholder demands, ESH initiatives, and global sustainability goals. ESG Frameworks provide comparable metrics that allow investors, customers, regulators, and other stakeholders to assess a company’s ESG performance against its peers. The GRI and SASB frameworks incorporate several indicators that EHS professionals are directly accountable for. The frameworks underpin the non-financial considerations core to ESG and a company’s overall resilience within the marketplace.
Managing ESG effectively can provide better alignment across the company and give you a better understanding of where pain points are and where action needs to be taken to make improvements. To give you a better idea of what an ESG Strategy can look like, follow Antea Group’s 7 step approach:
- Impact screening
- Materiality assessment
- Current state baseline
- Vision and goals
- Strategic roadmap
- Report progress
ESG will inevitably become more and more important to your company's strategy and now is the time to start advocating for EHS within that strategy. Luckily, many EHS activities overlap with ESG concepts, meaning that as an EHS professional you have valuable input in this conversation.
The pandemic years were certainly a challenging time for EHS leaders. While we are still expecting to deal with ongoing COVID-19 changes, we are excited to start looking to the future. EHS professionals are in a position to make innovative changes in health and safety leverage all the hard work they put in over the past two years to secure their seat at the table. We’re always honored to host EHSxRetail events and we’re looking forward to future discussions with industry leaders!
For more information on ESG, reach out to our ESG Advisory Team!
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