Seventh International Environmental Management Leadership Symposium
Environmental Sustainability and
EHS Professional Responsibility
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by John Morelli
and Kelley Lockwood
Page 1
a notion of sustainability
• not so useful
• professionals need to take a whack!
• ecologists
• conservation biologists
• economists
• farmers
• in searching for this meaning, perhaps we
can discover our own
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Page 2
where we begin
goals” of the
operational goals of
the environmental
professional goal of
the environmental
goal of the
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Page 3
on environmental
• “environmental” almost always connected with
human impacts on natural systems
• “ecological” = interdependence w/in system
• “environmental sustainability” connects human
activities with ecological interdependence
• = subset of ecological sustainability
• consistent with Butler’s concept of “ecological
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the survey
• ISO 26000: 2010 social responsibility
• 2010 survey of 7,400 professionals
• 16 departments/functional units
• 526 respondents
• asked, “who is responsible for SR?”
• premise: your organization has decided to become
more sustainable and socially responsible.
you are asked to review 44 action items and indicate:
• “what role should you play?”
• “who else should
a role?”
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the survey
• 44 questions
• derived from 220 action items in ISO 26000
• in seven core subject areas:
1. organizational governance
2. human rights
3. labor practices
4. the environment
5. fair operating practices
6. consumer issues
7. community involvement & development
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the survey
• “what role should you play?”
• choices
• principal in charge
• major responsibility
• supporting role or responsibility
• minimal role or responsibility
• No role or responsibility
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the survey
“who else should have a role?”
• choices
health and safety
• communication/Public
• human Resources
• risk Management
• other
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• top tier responsibilities of ehs managers
• as indicated by ehs managers
• health and safety at work (90.5%)
• prevention of pollution"(89.3%)
• sustainable resource use (74%)
• as perceived by other professions
• strong agreement regarding health and safety
• less strongly regarding pollution prevention
• climate change and mitigation = #1, #2 & #3
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findings (cont’d.)
• prevention of pollution
• Action Item: Implement measures to minimize waste,
prevent pollution and properly manage that which is
• Responsibilities with Environmental Professionals within
EHS function & supported by H&S Professionals
• Operations professionals indicated they would hold major or
supporting responsibility
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findings (cont’d.)
• prevention of pollution (cont’d.)
• Action Item: Ensure the organization measures,
records, reports and publically discloses the amounts
and types of toxic and hazardous materials used and
released, and make known the associated risks to
human health and the environment.
• EHS Professionals hold monitoring and reporting equally
important as implementation.
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findings (cont’d.)
• sustainable resource use
• Action Item: Implement programs and practices for
sustainable material, energy and environmental
resources to reduce the environmental burden
resulting from the organizations’ activities, products
and services.
• many functional units indicate this as an area of principal or
supporting responsibility
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findings (cont’d.)
• health and safety at work
• Action Item: Apply principles of health and safety
management and provide health and safety protection
for all workers.
• interest chiefly among the H&S Professionals
within the EHS functional area
• strong commitment by Risk Managers and Human
Resources professionals toward taking principal
or major responsibility
• operations/production
also perceived to have role
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findings (cont’d.)
• health and safety at work
• Action Item: Analyze, control and communicate the health
and safety risks involved in the organizations’ activities
and ensure that all workers follow safe practices and
• Parallel to the priorities associated with the prevention
of pollution action items
• analysis and communication of risks are important!
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findings (cont’d.)
• top three action items perceived by Other Professions as
the responsibilities of EHS Professionals all in "Climate
Change Mitigation and Adaption" subcategory.
•these involved:
• protecting natural habitat during land development
• minimizing impacts on ecosystems, and
• internalizing environmental burdens such as those
imposed by carbon emissions.
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findings (cont’d.)
climate change identified:
• within the top ten by Environmental Professionals,
• two of the three in the top ten by EHS Professionals,
• one ranked this high among H&S Professionals.
• a fourth climate change-related action item involving
selecting environmentally and socially responsible
suppliers and contractors was ranked 10th by
Environmental Professionals and not among the top
ten for the other two groups.
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while most might recognize sustainability to be a direction
in which we must head, few have voluntarily stepped
forward to claim it as an area of principal or major
responsibility within their profession.
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• neither surprising that Other Professions expect a
considerable amount of responsibility for environmental
sustainability to fall on the shoulders of EHS professionals,
• nor that EHS professionals have not automatically moved
all non-traditional, environmental sustainability-related
activities to the top of their list of professional
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as with any new recognized need or mandated
responsibility, "sustainability" or perhaps more usefully,
"environmental sustainability," will need a shakeout period
both to better understand and define the concept and to
distribute the associated responsibility
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this work demonstrated:
• that "prevention of pollution" and "health and safety at
work" are of paramount importance to EHS professionals
• that the measurement, analysis and communication of
associated risks are held in almost equal regard.
• “sustainable resource use” is also clearly shown to be
an important concern for EHS professionals and for many
other functional areas across the organization.
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• increasing societal expectations regarding social
responsibility and environmental sustainability will drive
many professions to define and delineate their own roles in
this venture.
• hopefully for environmental professionals, this will
translate to a more coherent understanding of the most
meaningful goals of their profession.
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An opened door on environment - Environmental sustainability