Transforming Emerging Trends into EHS & Sustainability Programs

Transforming Emerging Trends into EHS & Sustainability Programs

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From aspiration 2 operation. NAEM's Forum showcases how co's transform #EHS & #Sustainability trends into biz value
Wednesday, April 27, 2016 - 9:15am

Last week, NAEM announced the topics for the 2016 EHS & Sustainability Management Forum, the largest annual gathering for corporate decision-makers. Developed in cooperation with a committee of peers, the agenda is a showcase of how individual leaders are translating emerging trends into new practices and proven programs. To understand the trends that are driving this year's conference, we spoke with NAEM Deputy Director Virginia Hoekenga, who directs the annual program.

Q: In your experience of working on this annual program, what are some of the challenges that continue to shape how companies manage their EHS and sustainability programs?

VH: Over the course of the past decade, we've seen tremendous progress in the management of EHS& S from a systems perspective, which new software tools are helping to accelerate.  Since change tends to be incremental year-to-year, though, the Forum program continues to address a lot of persistent challenges, such as: how to set the right metrics; how to manage EHS&S in global enterprises across vastly different cultures and languages; how to engage employees in EHS and sustainability initiatives; and how to advance compliance efforts as a fragile economy continues to put pressure on EHS&S budgets and staff.

Q: NAEM recently released its bi-annual trends report. In working with the Forum committee to prepare this year’s program, what are some of the emerging trends that seem to be top-of-mind for the committee?

VH: We are definitely looking at how goal setting is evolving—impact goals, zero goals, science-based goals are all newer ideas that challenge the traditional “reduce by X amount this next year” approach.   The committee wants to explore how these goals are being realized and what challenges these new approaches introduce (like how do you set metrics for goals that describe a future state?)  We also have a lot of interest in the Circular Economy. Our committee is really pushing to get beyond a description of the concept to find examples of application.  Of course we continue to have a focus on managing EHS and sustainability using a risk management approach.  And finally an issue we’ve seen for years that finally gaining traction is around supply chain sustainability and risk management—everything from how to start to engage suppliers and set up a supplier sustainability program to looking for and eradicating forced labor in your supply chain.

Q: What are some of the sessions you're most looking forward to this year?  

VH: This year, it’s exciting to say, we’ll have a whole track on safety leadership sessions, with some excellent sessions on the newer tools companies are using to reduce incidents and injuries.  We’ll also have great sessions on waste, water and energy management trends, and sessions on managing talent and building strong teams.  And our Forum program wouldn’t’ be complete with sessions on sustainability strategy development including using materiality assessments and strategic transparency and reporting.

To learn more about the sessions planned for NAEM's 2016 EHS & Sustainability Management Forum, or to register, visit