By Kenny Sandlin
What is a strategic EHS business partner and why should you strive to become one?
These are questions I have asked myself many times. Strategic EHS business partners think beyond the basic responsibilities of recordkeeping, compliance, documentation, incident investigations, etc. and acknowledge that while the basics must get done, and be done in an accurate, timely, and in a cost-effective manner, there is much more to their roles. Strategic EHS leaders serve as a business partner, ensuring that EHS initiatives are undertaken in alignment with the company’s strategy, priorities, direction, focus, and mission, vision, and values.
Being an administrator of the important stuff, the basic responsibilities I mentioned above, will not be sufficient for success. It is critical to our jobs, but not sufficient enough to achieve EHS Excellence. A true strategic EHS business partner helps to create a culture of continuous improvement that goes far beyond just Safety. You must put effort into improving engagement with the mission and vision of the company. Helping to improve performance through accountability for goals, eliminating waste, and improving efficiency. These will also drive improvement in safety and compliance. Everything we do must be designed to help move the needle on all these things.
Strategic Environmental, Health, & Safety business partners must know and understand what the main strategic goals of the company are. They will then determine how to design EHS activities that will help the company and other functional leaders accomplish these goals. This will help drive engagement from all levels of the company into EHS activities, while showing the value of EHS. A strategic EHS leader is one who is more of a resource and support to those on the shop floor than the main doer of the activities. No matter how much you care or try, you will never be able to impact your company’s culture to the same degree as can the men and women working on the front line every single day. If you do not get them involved, engaged, and understanding the “why” of things, you will not be able to effectively change your company’s culture.
I truly believe to achieve EHS Excellence, we as EHS professionals, must move away from being “compliance cops” and become strategic business partners. This way we will be leading true change and not pushing temporary corrections. This is not an easy change, like most change it takes time, patience, and effort.
Our leaders want and need us to become EHS strategic business partners, even if they do not fully know it yet. It is up to us to become the best EHS leaders we can be and show how valuable a strategic EHS business partner can be.
Kenny Sandlin is Vice-President of Health & Safety at Pace Industries.