After two decades of explosive growth and innovation, there’s little doubt that the future is big and bright for the technology sector. After all—from smartphones to modern car engines—technology has become ubiquitous within our daily lives, with consumers hungry for the “next big thing” to be brought to market.

For EHS and sustainability leaders at tech companies, that relentless innovation taking place inside and outside company walls, coupled with evolving stakeholder expectations, means new challenges and new opportunities.

We recently sat down with a handful of our seasoned consultants—all of whom have worked with executives and environmental leaders within a variety of tech companies—for their thoughts and insights on what trends EHS and sustainability leaders at tech companies need to know in 2018 and beyond.

Read on to learn what they had to say.

Trend 1: The tech talent shortage will persist—giving EHS an opportunity to shine

The tech talent shortage is certainly not a new problem. When the boom took off in the late 90s, tech companies were scrambling to find and retain top talent.

But the shortage is reaching new heights. In fact, PwC’s 2017 CEO Survey of the tech industry showed that while executives are optimistic about their growth prospects, many see the lack of available talent as the No. 1 threat to growth—with 80% saying they’re somewhat or extremely concerned.

While overcoming the talent shortage will be a lofty undertaking, it does present EHS managers with an opportunity to proactively position themselves as a strategic recruiting and retention partner, according to Peylina Chu, Antea Group Vice President and Technology Segment Leader. Here’s her rationale and advice for making that happen:

From ensuring employee comfort and safety with ergonomics to running employee wellness programs, EHS teams 

already play a leading role in creating great work environments—which means they can bring real value and expertise to recruiting and retention efforts.

To begin with, EHS leaders should engage top leadership to help them understand the business and cultural value of EHS, as well as the important role they play in achieving success. In addition, EHS departments should strategically align with business development, marketing, human resources, and other departments to help tell the story of what it’s like to work for the company. This collaboration can ultimately help attract and grow your company’s talent pool, as well as help bolster your department as a strategic business partner.

Trend 2: Rapid globalization will continue—and a seat at the mergers and acquisitions table is ripe for the taking

In today’s increasingly global marketplace, many tech companies are seizing opportunities to expand their businesses’ footprint through new partnerships, mergers, and acquisitions. In fact, a recent survey of tech industry professionals showed that 67% of respondents believe M&A activity will increase in the next two quarters. But while rapid growth brings big business opportunities, it also brings complex compliance and nuanced cultural blind spots.

According to Matthew Bell, Senior Consultant and Environmental M&A Consulting Practice Leader, this means EHS and sustainability leaders can be invaluable during the discovery, asset transition, and post-transaction process:

The rapid growth of the technology industry—coupled with evolving workforce, investor, and consumer expectations—requires tech companies to be prepared to engage in proper due diligence to both understand their potential exposure to EHS and sustainability risks as well as identify factors influencing successful integration of any new entity.

Generally speaking, from both EHS and sustainability perspectives, having a seat at the M&A table means EHS&S leaders can help proactively address new compliance requirements, identify facility health and safety risk, environmental liability, or sustainability risks, unearth important cultural nuances that may impact EHS integration, and ultimately help bolster business continuity.

Trend 3: Uncovering materiality is evolving beyond the tried-and-true stakeholder survey

As every sustainability professional knows, materiality matters when it comes to refining your sustainability strategy, as well as reporting back to your key stakeholder groups on the accomplishments you’ve made. But according to Pamela J. Gordon, TFI-Antea Group Collaboration Leader, some companies are actively pursuing more in-depth, qualitative means of uncovering what is most important to their stakeholders. Here’s what she has to say:

For years, surveys have been a critical best practice in conducting materiality assessments, helping sustainability leaders uncover meaningful insights, build rapport with stakeholders, and ultimately help tell and tailor their sustainability stories to various stakeholder groups.

But one thing I’m really excited about is that some corporations are engaging in one-on-one interviews, as well as focus groups, with a broad range of stakeholders to qualitatively expand their sustainability reach. This is allowing them to go beyond a collection of survey results, helping them dig deeper into the minds of stakeholders to reveal more context, as well as help them pivot and coach stakeholders in a more strategic way.

Of course, these face-to-face interactions aren’t in place of a survey because surveys are still a fantastic way of analyzing large data sets. But supplementing surveys with these in-depth interviews—and really getting to the qualitative side—can help strengthen stakeholder relationships and align them with your sustainability goals.

The Future is Now

Technology companies are built on innovation. So as your organization continues to level up its products, services, and facilities, it’s important to keep your finger on the pulse of emerging trends—as well as a keen eye on strategic opportunities and new risks they’ll bring.

For the past few years, Antea Group has facilitated EHSxTech, an initiative to bring tech industry EHS and sustainability professionals together to explore regulatory updates, talk needs and challenges, and discuss leading industry trends.

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