Focus on 2022: Sustainability and ESG

This week, EHS Daily Advisor (EHSDA) is examining four key issues that will impact EHS professionals in the new year. Today, we asked three industry experts to provide their insights on what sustainability and environment, social, and governance (ESG) efforts will look like in 2022.

Earlier this year, EHSDA and Avetta conducted The State of Safety and Beyond survey, which gathered insights from 314 EHS professionals about how their organizations are dealing with current safety challenges and what they’re expecting in the future. Sustainability efforts are taking on increased importance, with 56% of respondents saying their organization’s leadership has made sustainability a strategic priority; 21% said it is not a priority and 22% were unsure. Asked what the main reason was for their organization engaging with sustainability, 49% said it aligns with organizational goals, mission, and values, 12% said to meet regulatory requirements, 12% said to improve/maintain brand reputation, 6% said to attract/motivate/retain employees, 4% said to meeting industry standards, and 4% said to make a positive impact on an issue.

When it comes to engaging employees in new safety efforts, 65% of respondents said they train staff on safety culture, 56% said they use monitoring programs and track results, 54% solicit employee feedback, 48% use leadership commitment, and 35% reward positive behaviors. Other methods include adding safety captains to all facilities; safety incentive programs; staff engagement survey management by an international supplier; and safety culture surveys and follow-up on weaknesses identified.

To engage employees in sustainability efforts, 47% of respondents said they emphasize that sustainability is part of the corporate culture, 34% said employees understand how sustainability efforts align with overall strategy, 31% said all employees receive training on how to integrate sustainability practices into their everyday jobs, and 18% said sustainability performance is considered in employee compensation decisions. Other techniques included holding periodic town hall-style meetings at each location to communicate company goals and achievements; performance contacting of sustainability KPIs to line function; additional bonus and involvement of employee’s family in sustainability campaign; marketing, grants, award programs, campus funding for sustainability initiatives.

How will organizations handle ESG efforts in 2022?

Kevin Shoemaker, senior product manager, EHS Hero:

Because of the increased complexity and change associated with these efforts, I believe organizations are going to have to find granular ways of delivering information and management of change of this information to their leadership. Leadership can then filter and share this information with the workforce. Leadership attempting to sift through the increasingly large and complex reams of data associated with various regulatory statutes and requirements is becoming relatively unmanageable. Breaking this information into small, relevant bites of data can enable a ESG leader who is expected to do and cover more and more to stay compliant. I think organizations will be looking for automation and simplicity in these areas to reduce the administrative loading on these leaders.

Rachel Walla, principal consultant with Ally Safety:

Employees are increasingly seeking to align themselves with organizations that they feel align with their values. More than ever before, organizations are expected to state their values and demonstrate actions to enforce these to current and prospective employees. A sense of purpose at work and giving back to the community is an important element of work for many who are entering the work world today. Companies who want to attract and retain top talent will likely have to find a way to incorporate a sense of purpose and fulfillment into the total picture of what is offered, rather than focusing on salary and benefits alone. 

Claire Beich, president and owner of Ascend Consulting Environmental Health & Safety:

As we are looking forward to the updates and changes 2022 is set to show us, ESG efforts may have the biggest changes to show us yet. I believe the expectations for ESG standards will no longer be a simple data point where an organization occasionally looks at or discusses during annual meetings. Instead, ESG standards will be something which becomes required and necessary, guiding and supporting many of the public goals for all companies. We are moving in a direction which now touts metrics, improvements, sustainability and the need to be awake to a facilities effect on the world. To do this and be successful we are looking at the longer/big picture rather than the small/narrow scope. These goals can get organizations massive loss reduction, fleet management improvements (monitoring emissions and improved driving) and reduction of carbon footprints – just to name a few. These goals are going to be at the forefront of expectations at organizations small and large. For those organizations which do make ESG efforts through increased transparency, dialed up data and auditing tools (quantitative data where each data point can be proven, tracked and followed), etc. which all support the reduction of waste and increase environmental wellness efforts, I predict, will be at the forefront of the successful businesses who are sought after by employees and clients alike.