An Optimistic View of EHS&S and ESG for 2021
We recently wrapped up three days of virtual events for our bi-annual Inogen Alliance Associates meetings. What used to be days full of interactive meetings, catching up in person and discussing new ideas over coffee and drinks has turned into online sessions packed full of technical expertise and innovative solutions and trends. The Alliance is built on long-lasting trusted relationships across Associates, and we miss the in-person connections but are grateful that technology allows us to carry on with our meetings despite the challenging time zones.
Themes from the event this spring included inward project wins and progress with marketing and presenting the Alliance as a unique business model, new solutions and trends in the EHS&S industry, and technical expertise and innovations. There is a lot happening within the Alliance globally and we are positioned to take advantage of many new innovations and service offerings through our diverse local Associate companies. We also heard from the Alliance’s global working groups; each working group is a focal point for collaboration either on a market segment or around a service. Below are some additional topics and learnings from meetings:
Several external experts in the field of Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) spoke on how Environmental, Sustainability and Health and Safety services are interconnected and woven into the ESG lens. For example, you can’t talk about biodiversity without climate change, or sustainable practices without risk assessments or audits. Global companies and their investors are looking at a holistic approach to ESG. This lens does not appear to be a passing trend but a long-term strategy critical to the success of businesses in the future.
“Most organizations are good at incremental improvement rather than transformational change. This means that they tend to get progressively more effective at delivering on what used to be important. We are at a true inflection point as far as climate is concerned and have no more time to waste – there needs to be an urgent focus on organizational change and some business models simply won’t survive the transition to a low carbon economy,” Simon Pringle, Associate Fellow at Chatham House, Honorary Professor at University of Edinburgh Business School, Managing Director Project Rome.
As one of our own experts stated, there are over 600 framework versions for an ESG strategy. ESG is currently a hyper-sensitive topic that is constantly shifting and evolving. This can be confusing and frustrating for companies that are striving to put in place their own ESG strategy. It can be helpful to have a consultant tailor the ESG approach and create a unique journey for an individual company. It all starts with identifying what is most material to the relevant stakeholders and creating a clear understanding of how existing benchmarks and assessments fit with a specific approach. Consultants not only help set benchmarks but then can advise on ways to improve your performance moving forward based on an ESG assessment. Our global associates can combine thought leadership and learnings across diverse locations, clients, and industries to enable incredibly agile and tailored approaches to ESG.
We heard from the financial side of how ESG is looked at across portfolios as well. “We seek to embed ESG throughout the entire investment process through data collection and continuous improvement; then we get on with it, rather than just talk about it,” Dan Grandage, Head of ESG Private Markets & Real Estate at Aberdeen Standard Investments.
Digitalization and Tools in EHS&S
If you have a lot of data but cannot model, analyze or make recommendations based on it, the data is useless. In today’s environment, there is no shortage of data and it can overwhelm systems and operations. In our meetings across the Alliance we discussed the need for digitalization and better EHS&S tools.
Legal compliance tracking is a common data challenge, our Associate denxpert demonstrated their solution, denxpert LEGAL, to manage legal registers, compliance tracking, findings and compliance calendars. In EHS&S there is no shortage of requirements around data collection from air emissions, to energy to waste and it is a challenge for many companies to present and utilize data in a succinct way. denxpert enables better communication, processes and understanding of compliance data so that operations can make good decisions. Our recent blog on digitalization discusses this topic more in-depth.
Continued COVID-19 Services
As the world shifts between varying degrees of recovery or shutting back down, services and support around COVID-19 have evolved. We are seeing three general groups of business response to COVID-19:
- Companies actively responding to keep employees and clients safe where there is still a prevalent spread of the virus. These can be global companies that are tracking where vaccines are available, navigating reoccurring business shutdowns, or staying abreast of ever-changing COVID guidance from government officials.
- Businesses able to restart and/or move to full capacity staffing are focused on creating plans for that return. In many cases they are returning to a hybrid situation (working from home and working in an office) which requires the need for new H&S program documents. There has also been employee training of on-going COVID protections, COVID Officers for events, risk assessment, ergonomics, and emergency planning for home-based workers.
- Businesses that are fully operational are using learnings and patterns from previous phases as elements of a new business foundation for the future. Most of this work has been focused on supply chain resilience.
Business resilience is top of mind for everyone and it is crucial to evolve and respond to the future business climate. Supply chains have been re-imagined with more local or regional support and with focus on technology. For other businesses, work-from-home options or hybrid options may be here to stay which puts a different spin on health and safety for employees and ergonomics support. Services in EHS&S have evolved to meet these differing needs and phases, including risk assessments for home workers and ergonomics programs.
PFAS as an Emerging Topic
PFAS, or forever chemicals, are an emerging threat and liability with regulations starting to emerge to address this challenge. We are looking at this holistically on impacts including future remediation, but first starting with education, where exposures might be, an understanding of the magnitude of it and then mitigation efforts. PFAS can have impacts on legacy liability, operations, and brand reputation. It’s in every industry from oil and gas, chemicals, food and beverage, manufacturing, retail, healthcare, construction, alternative energy and many more. It could be in the product, in the manufacturing of the product, in the disposal, or throughout supply chains.
Some countries globally are starting to regulate PFAS. To give a view on the magnitude of contamination in just one state in the US there is an estimated 10-15,000 PFAS contaminated sites. Check out the blog on Antea Group USA’s site for more education on what PFAS is and why it matters.
Trends and Opportunities in EHS&S
We see varied trends and opportunities across Environmental, Health and Safety and Sustainability services globally including the below list where we have built up expertise and support for clients.
- Production and Event Safety
- ESG Support Services
- Climate Change
- Distribution Warehousing
- Data Center Support
- Construction Safety
- PFAS Tools
- COVID-19 Services
As a global alliance of local experts, we are stronger together and will continue to innovate and offer the best local expertise globally to our clients. We are proud to share learnings from our bi-annual conferences to enable us all to build a more sustainable future. Follow us on LinkedIn or contact us for support in any of these areas.
About Inogen Alliance
We are an Alliance of consultants that can provide global coverage through one point of contact for environmental, health, safety, and sustainability efforts at your company. Together by choice for 20 years, our Alliance has unparalleled global coverage and a committed team that will partner with you in solving your EHS challenges, resolving liabilities from the past, addressing today's requirements and delivering innovative solutions for the future. Learn more at https://www.inogenalliance.com.