As we kick off the New Year, it’s time to look ahead to the emerging trends that will affect your work in health and safety. Many carry over from last year, but the instability of many factors means we still cannot ignore them. These trends have the potential to impact business operations or your role as an EHS, sustainability or risk professional.
The Globally Harmonised System
This has finally arrived, and organisations need to be compliant with this system by December 2018. New regulations will begin coming into effect, as will phased implementation for those who become compliant.
Of course this now leaves countries with the responsibility of amending their own legislation to align with the new requirements.
Publication of ISO 45001
While this is not a trend, its release will have a significant impact on the industry. The standard is still scheduled for publication in December 2017. Remember, the key changes relate to:
- increased prominence of environmental management within the organisation's strategic planning processes
- greater focus on leadership
- the addition of proactive initiatives to protect the environment from harm and degradation, such as sustainable resource use and climate change mitigation
- improving environmental performance added
- lifecycle thinking when considering environmental aspects
- the addition of a communications strategy.
In addition, the revised standard follows a common structure, with the same terms and definitions as a number of other management system standards (such as ISO 9001). This makes them easier, cheaper and quicker for those companies who use more than one, not to mention helping out the auditors.
Demand for safety people will remain strong
The safety occupation will continue to grow. However, employers will be much choosier in terms of who they hire. One group will value experience more than anything else, and the other education. The preference in most cases will be post-secondary education and experience. It is one way that employers will be able to distinguish amongst the hundreds of resumes they receive for every safety position they have.
4. Risk and uncertainty for operational excellence and resilience will be leveraged
Broadly speaking, managing risk is also about managing uncertainty. Uncertainty can have negative consequences, but it can also create opportunities for improvement. Watch for many best-in-class organisations to create deeper links between risk management processes and corporate governance. Firms will not only aim to mitigate EHS risks and other risks, but also to leverage lessons learned and controls to improve processes and build greater operational excellence and resilience. In addition, more organisations will evaluate and select GRC solutions to help them meet company objectives.
5. Predictive analytics will try make sense of all the data
Data capture became a growing challenge some time ago. The challenge then became ensuring data quality, using the data to drive regulatory compliance, and aggregating data for dashboards and reports. Today, integrated and mobile-enabled software platforms with great breadth and depth help companies address EHS data capture and management challenges. But watch for a case of ‘data overload’ developing for many organisations that have been using EHS platforms for some time now. Rather than being a problem, this presents an opportunity. Companies can leverage data for predictive analytics. Not only will companies continue to use data to track and manage incidents, but increasingly they will seek to leverage data to predict where and when the next incident or adverse event is the most likely to occur.
6. Accelerated use of solutions in the Cloud
Solutions delivered in the Cloud have been around for some time now. Look for accelerated growth for two reasons. First, for many companies, the use is more cost-effective than on-premise solutions. With the decline in oil prices, economic uncertainty in China, where many companies have a stake, and other pressures to optimise costs, Cloud-based solutions allow many organisations to save costs. Second, there are a number of solutions offered in the Cloud that are very attractive for organisations. They include:
- real-time regulatory alerts
- delivery of regulatory content for EHS applications
- mobility services
- online stakeholder engagement
- benchmarking against industry peers.
7. The Internet of Things (IoT) and wearables become more relevant to EHS
While mobility in EHS is still in the early adopter stage, it has plenty of room to grow, and will continue to have momentum. The market is also thinking about the next technological innovations and how they relate to EHS. Many people are just beginning to realise the full potentials of IoT and wearables in EHS. Applications include:
- sensors that automatically detect and report toxic air releases due to an incident
- wearable monitoring systems that alert workers when they are being exposed to hazardous chemicals
- real-time safety alerts on mobile devices including smartwatches.
But along with the growth of IoT and wearables, we can also expect IoT security risks.
8. The COP21 ripple effect
You know of the historic agreement reached in Paris during the COP21 UN Climate Change Conference. The agreement does not include legally binding targets. Instead, there are commitments by countries to provide updates on their plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and tackle climate change. But COP21 succeeded in one very important way: it dramatically changed the dynamics. Stakeholders are now more likely to hold companies accountable regarding their climate change initiatives. All of this leads to potential impacts on EHS and sustainability programmes, as well as new or enhanced regulatory and reputational risks that need to be managed.
9. Water management and water stress take centre stage
Most best-in-class companies have some sort of energy management programme to manage energy costs and Scope 2 carbon emissions. Look for water management to achieve the same level of attention as energy management. Organisations have water management programmes in place to manage permit requirements associated with water discharges, and for water stewardship and resource conservation efforts. But look for risks created by water scarcity issues to climb on corporate agendas. Climate change is creating unexpected or longer periods of drought, which is affecting many industries with operations that rely on water access. Such industries include:
- energy (water-energy nexus)
- oil and gas (water needed for fracking)
- mining and metals
- food and beverage (water needed for agriculture).
Increasingly, water management will also be about managing water stress issues, which is why it will be as prominent as energy management.
10. Supply chain risks no longer seen as external risks
Many surveys and reports have shown that risks associated to the supply chain are becoming more important for companies. Firms are affected by operational risks (e.g. parts not delivered on time) that impact product delivery and can therefore lead to loss of sales opportunities and revenue, as well as reputational risks (suppliers with questionable social and environmental performance, toxic ingredients in chemical products, conflict minerals, etc.). Supply chain risks have been moving higher on the priority list of risks to mitigate. Watch for this mind set to become more prominent in 2016: More organisations will view supply chain risks the same they view risks located within the four walls of their facilities, rather than seeing them as external factors over which they have limited influence.
11. Greater pressure from investors to improve sustainability and CSR
Traditionally, pressure to improve sustainability and CSR performance has come from consumers, customers, NGOs, government regulators, and certain actors of civil society. In general, investors were often seen as being primarily concerned with shareholder value and short-term quarterly financial performance. This has changed over the last couple of years and this trend will certainly continue to grow for publicly-traded corporations. For example, investors are taking a greater interest in sustainability reporting, and demanding better disclosure of environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) risks. In addition, there is a growing number of sustainability-related resolutions filed by activist shareholders. All of this means that pressure to improve sustainability and CSR performance from the investment community may become as important as pressure from consumers, customers, NGOs and government regulators.
12. Occupational health, ergonomics analysis and corporate wellness
When people think about EHS, they tend to focus heavily on the ‘E’ and ‘S ‘parts, such as air quality, greenhouse gas emissions, water management, waste management, incident management or job safety analysis. For too long, the ‘H’ of EHS has been treated like the middle child not getting the attention and respect it deserves. But things have started to change and employers are increasingly realising that keeping a workforce healthy and fit for work has direct consequences on safety performance. Watch for things like occupational health, ergonomics analysis, as well as corporate wellness programmes to be figured more prominently in EHS programmes, as companies apply the age-old theory ‘prevention is the best medicine’ in the field of occupational safety and health.
13. Innovation and growth in digital corporate reporting
First, we live in a digital world where social media and mobile technologies are central to our everyday existence, both personally and professionally. Second, mandatory reporting is on the rise (financial reports, sustainability/CSR reports, ESG reports, integrated reports, etc.). As a result of these two trends, the practice of digital reporting has become common for many Fortune 500 companies. Watch for many companies to leverage the power of online engagement and make digital reporting more interactive, user-friendly and responsive. This creates opportunities for increased stakeholder engagement, as well as greater efficiency and transparency. The numerous solutions and stakeholder engagement platforms that are available today reflect this trend.