(Ir)Responsible Care”That’s the way it is!”

This post has nothing to do with Walter Cronkite Famous daily sign off !! Nor Celine Dion’s smashing hit number!

I have uploaded YouTube video on Responsible Care®, a voluntary ESH excellence program for chemical industry linking operational aspects to business excellence with community engagement besides focusing on Security post 9/11 scenario. This YouTube presentation, my 8th in State of ESH nation-INDIA, survey, has cross refered to my other presentations, I have posted before. I would list all of my presentations done so far at the bottom of the blog post.

As I was preparing the slides for this presentation, flash news came of President Trump’s executive order to roll back many Sustainability, Green House emissions besides giving a free run to coal plants. This will practically nullify efforts made over last 7-8 years and committment reached in Paris conference in 2015 for tackling global warming. This stroke of pen may as well dump President Obama’s efforts out of window. It would be interesting to see how the world reacts as things go forward as well as how coal industry would survive in cut throat competition of low-priced Renewables, Gas etc. I also recollect David Cameron saying UK-HSE is an albatross around  Industry’s neck and excessive safety culture is killing the Industrial growth. 

The only positive consolation, if any(?), in country like India, our lawmakers are not bothered about such efforts of turnaround, cutting across party lines, one way or the other and a corrupt ESH bureaucracy, so it will be business as usual for folks here. I can’t recollect single meaningful legislation since Chapter IVA of Factories Act which has made an impact on Industry in India over the last 20 years of my career. The legislations lack precision as well  lacks the bite and penalties are pittance that in a cost benefit analysis, paying such fines are far beneficial to companies than reach out and carry out mandated improvements. Incident investigations are forgotten even to be completed let along lessons learnt.Screen Shot 2017-03-30 at 7.53.02 AM.pngSo in a sense, it is heartening to see China leading all out efforts to be a leader in Renewable energy and clean up act, although it is a long hard march ahead considering the mess to clean up.Screen Shot 2017-03-30 at 7.46.07 AM.png

In an uncertain times, the Industries need to hold their own and do business as usual on the journey towards operational excellence. Politicians will come and go, policies will sail or sink, legislative overreach may be HIGH or LOW, companies and their leaders need to see what works for their best interest and put a strategy, plans in place to enhance triple bottom line ( Equity, Environment, Employee) and go about the same. They need to stick to “That’s the way it is” in beating the competition and create a winning environment for themselves by embracing Business enablers and work on norms beyond Regulatory compliance. As the saying goes, Tough times don’t last, tough people do! Such entities see opportunity in any adverse situation execute plans to work a way out and business as usual over medium term.

In this connection of working in an uncertain environment, I read an excellent article at EHS journal which I reproduce below which resonated with what I was working yesterday on RC. This article is by Scott NadlerI am reproducing this below for folks who receive my blog in email and who dont have easy web access.

My YouTube videos list!

  1. State of ESH Nation- India, Survey feedback.
  2. ESH Professionals its all in your hands. 
  3. Safety podcast, blogs, Books to sharpen your saw! 
  4. ESH MS Risk based Auditing. 
  5. ESH Nuts and bolts for execution for Best in class performance.
  6. QESH MS New standards, 2015, How to go about execution aligning to business.
  7. PSM-OSHA 1910.119, Basics. 
  8. IH and OM a Basics 
  9. Vehicle Safety and Hazmat transportation- An Overview and practical aspects.
  10. Responsible care. 

Take it easy, take care, stay safe, God bless. Have a great day.

Karthik.

30/3/17 0900 Hrs.

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Sustainability and EHS Strategies for the New Political Reality

EHS-Journal-Angel-by-Livia-Korandy
Angel by Livia Korandy, Szombathely, Hungary.

We’ve seen the direction that the new Administration in the United States wants to take. Now the question is, what direction will your company take?

It’s clear that the Administration intends to follow through on its promises. Even without Congressional action, it will move to gut environmental regulation, reverse climate change policy, and prioritize jobs over environment, health, safety, or sustainability.

It’s less clear what US-based companies intend to do. Will they stay the course, following through on their own promises (made in sustainability reports and elsewhere)? Will they gut their EHS and sustainability programs, taking Administration policy as a signal of a very different “license to operate?”  Will skeptical executives shut down sustainability activities they previously tolerated as a sop to stakeholders? Will they step up to help fill the leadership vacuum created by the public sector? Or will they hesitate and hedge, waiting to see which way the politics go?

If you have responsibility for your company’s sustainability/EHS (S/EHS) strategy, you can’t afford to wait. It’s important to review your approach now and see if it’s still “fit for purpose” in this changed and challenging context. Failing to do so risks losing momentum on key policies and programs or, worse, handing control over to those seeking to exploit the Administration’s signals.

Your review needs to take a new form, though. Repeating old “materiality” exercises and asking the same stakeholders the same questions won’t produce fresh perspective. Focusing only on “what’s changing now” will make your head hurt and make you over-react to short-term signals. Instead, asking three blunt questions can give you that needed fresh view.

Key Questions

Ask key internal leaders in a facilitated session if you can; ask yourself in the dead of night with a blank legal pad if you must. But ask.

  1. What is Enduring?

Start with what lasts, not with what is in flux. What part of your S/EHS promises, policies, and programs represent enduring beliefs and commitments?

Some of what’s enduring should be your company’s values.  These are the things that your company genuinely believed in the past, believes now, and will continue to believe regardless of shifting tides. The famous J&J Credo is one example, articulating beliefs that are literally chiseled in stone.

Some of what’s enduring may be central to your company’s value. What parts of your brand, core markets, or long-term strategy depend on your visibility or credibility around certain issues? What parts of your long-term capital expenditure are based on facing the reality of post-peak coal, disaggregated energy production, or changing urban development and transportation?

When you combine values and value, are there issues that have to be part of your company’s on-going commitment? That commitment might be around any EHS or sustainability issue: climate change, sea level rise, fair trade, supplier social performance, gender rights, or any one of a hundred different issues.

What matters is that these commitments are your foundation. Regardless of current politics, if these are truly enduring commitments then the priority is to remind everyone of that, renew the consensus on what those are, and make sure they remain intact.

EHS-Journal-Scott-Nadler-Strategy-Model-768x515.png

  1. What is Emerging?

Building on these enduring issues, you can move to the second question: What are the emerging S/EHS issues that create opportunities or risks to your business?

Look forward, not backward. What are the issues that are starting to emerge that you need to pay attention to (regardless of how they arise)? Inequality and economic opportunity here in the US may be one of those issues, even if you don’t like the way those issues were handled in the recent election. No one is pushing your company to do anything about this now. But is it something you should begin to pay attention to and prepare for?

Similarly, investor attention to your S/EHS performance may be growing. For years, we’ve heard investor pressure discussed without seeing long-term systematic pressure from the investors themselves. That may be starting to change – and while it may be exacerbated by declining faith in government action (or fears of negative government action), the generational shift in investing may be starting to stick. As Morgan Stanley just noted:

…86 percent of Millennials — broadly defined as those born between the early 1980s and 2000 — say they are interested in socially responsible investing. Millennials are also twice as likely to invest in a stock or a fund if social responsibility is part of the value-creation thesis.

That might seem like the same vague view of a distant future except now Morgan Stanley is starting to put its money (okay, your money) where its mouth is:

… [M]ost sustainable investing opportunities are perceived to cater to individuals with significant wealth, while Millennials are still early in earning years. In response, Morgan Stanley is launching the Impact Access Model Portfolios to provide access to diversified investments with reduced account minimums. 

Is your company ready?

  1. What is Expedient?

Once you’ve focused on the enduring and emerging, then it’s time to ask: What are the short-term actions, statements, or silences that may be expedient in the current political climate?

There’s nothing wrong with paying attention to short term opportunities and threats. In fact, you’re ignoring your fiduciary responsibilities if you don’t consider them. Regulatory requirements or roadblocks may be dropping. Tax regulations or other costs may be shifting. Political favor is certainly being dispensed (or withheld) based on different criteria than in the past, rewarding or punishing companies seen as following the Administration’s agenda. At the same time, media, NGO, and investor (or at least analyst) attention may be shifting in different directions, including punishing companies for following the Administration’s agenda.

All of those things may be relevant to your company’s S/EHS approaches. They may create legitimate short-term opportunities for investment and grabbing market share. They may create short-term risks that argue for moving a little more slowly or speaking out a little more softly.

The key is that these expediencies all look different if you’ve already updated your strategies for what is enduring and emerging. What is left, what may be expedient, is only at the margin. For example, if you’ve reaffirmed that your long-term strategy is based on adjusting to the long-term decline in coal, then you are much less likely to be swayed by short-term cheerleading about ephemeral reversals in coal’s fortunes.

Ask, Listen, Act

The answers to these three questions will vary by company, of course. Listen to what the people in your company really say. Don’t assume they all agree with you. Don’t avoid the tough answers.

Your actions need to be based on those answers, but you are probably going to want to:

  • Reaffirm the enduring issues and make sure senior management remembers and understands why those are important for your value, values or both
  • Explore the emerging issues and make sure the relevant business leaders are aware of them.
  • Expand and update your external network (and bring those changes into your materiality exercises) to help you assess and prepare for the emerging issues

The challenge is to find the right balance. Between the panic and the paralysis of daily headlines there is a point of calm, focused progress. Help your colleagues and company calm down about the expedient issues, capture opportunities and prepare for risks. Above all, don’t let your company over-react – and jeopardize its enduring value and values.

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Author: Karthik B; Orion Transcenders. Bangalore.

Lives in Bangalore. HESS Professional of 30+ yrs experience. Global Exposure in 4 continents of over 22 years in implementation of Health, Environment, Safety, Sustainability. First batch of Environmental Engineers from 1985 Batch. Qualified for implementing Lean, 6Sigma, HR best practices integrating them in to HESS as value add to business.

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