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Pulse of the EHS, OM, LC/P and RM Professions
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The Need

The beginning of the new millennium brings with it the same global environmental and human health issues that challenged us at the end of the 20 th century: climate change, species extinction, decreasing habitats, and diminishing freshwater supplies. But does it also bring the professionals required to help the planet solve those problems? As the science develops and the protesters grab headlines, corporations and governments have effectively been informed that corporate social responsibility must be a priority.

Recent tragic events in the US will only further reinforce the need for corporations to demonstrate their commitment to the safety and health of the global community. The experience gained over the past thirty years in solving local pollution issues and in addressing employee safety and health concerns positions businesses to favorably face these new challenges . . .or does it?

As we enter the 21 st century, a significant number of Environmental, Occupational Health, Industrial Hygiene, Safety, Occupational Medicine, Loss Control/Prevention and Risk Management (EHS, OM , LC/P and RM) professionals are rapidly approaching their retirement years. Many of the remaining EHS, OM , LC/P and RM professionals are facing the economic realities of downsizing, outsourcing, and the restructuring of EHS, OM , LC/P and RM organizations. Indeed, many EHS, OM , LC/P and RM professionals are vigorously seeking advancement opportunities totally unrelated to EHS, OM , LC/P and RM work. This “talent migration” will undoubtedly yield certain benefits, as these professionals will take their EHS, OM , LC/P and RM knowledge into their new assignments. But, the EHS, OM , LC/P and RM professions may continue to lose strong leadership and the experience needed for tackling these enduring environmental and human health and safety issues.

To some extent, the state-of-affairs of the EHS, OM , LC/P and RM professions is due more to success, than failure. The integration of EHS, OM , LC/P and RM management systems over the past several decades has reduced the need for experienced EHS, OM , LC/P and RM specialists who deal with "traditional concerns." In addition, the business management landscape has changed. Today, most EHS, OM , LC/P and RM professionals work for mid- to lower level managers, usually less than 45 years old. Most of these managers have never personally experienced a serious environmental, occupational health or safety event. Very few have ever been fired or disciplined for EHS, OM , LC/P and RM incidents or violations. EPA was started in 1970, which was so long ago that these new managers cannot relate to the "way it used to be." Bhopal , India , Seveso , Italy , and Love Canal, New York are events from another generation.

But, all professions face a degree of uncertainty and dissatisfaction as the demand for their services shift with economic, technological or supply and demand swings. The fundamental question is "Are EHS, OM , LC/P and RM professionals properly trained, positioned, and motivated to successfully deal with this new generation of issues and the changing perspectives on traditional issues?" If they are not, the consequences will have broad implications for the ability of companies to cost effectively meet this challenge broadly described as social responsibility and sustainable development. Optimizing the performance of EHS, OM , LC/P and RM professionals has the potential to positively impact all business efforts in these areas.

Organization and Funding

The cornerstone of the project is the growing concern that something significant may be going on in the EHS, OM , LC/P and RM professions, the effects of which could have broad consequences on the speed at which global environmental, heath and safety concerns are addressed. It is not “business as usual,” and we are seeking partnerships with leading professional organizations to join with us to systematically investigate what may be wrong and how it may impact EHS, OM, LC/P and RM professionals.

The project will be managed by the Center for Environmental Innovation, a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization and staffed by senior environmental executives and academics with extensive experience. The Wharton School ’s business leadership and contacts will provide support by drawing on their relationships with corporations, professional associations and organizations to work towards the common goal of improving the professions. The nation's leading EHS, OM, LC/P and RM professional organizations have joined with this effort.

Initial funding will also be sought from leading companies who wish to retain and develop their key EHS, OM , LC/P and RM staff members.  We hope you will find this research endeavor to be of value and that you are able to support the initial phase of the research effort and become a project affiliate at $2,000, a supporter at $5,000 or a sponsor at $10,000. In addition, we would like to draw on the experiences of your EHS, OM , LC/P and RM professionals and managers for the project and ask that they contribute to the research focus group sessions or other data gathering opportunities. The cost of subsequent phases will depend on the nature of the responses from the first phase.

Published Information

Several articles on the topic of the strategic future of professionals have recently been authored. Contact CEI for copies.

  • Career Tracks - Sustainable Development and Its Career Implications, Part 2, EM Magazine, by Richard MacLean, August 2008.
  • Career Tracks - Sustainable Development and Its Career Implications, Part 1, EM Magazine, by Richard MacLean, May 2008.
  • The Six W's of Leadership - What Kind of EHS Leader Are You? Environmental Protection, by Richard MacLean, June 2006.
  • Corporate Environmentalism: In search of vision, leadership, and strategy , Environmental Quality Management, by Richard MacLean, Autumn 2005.
  • So You Need to be a Consultant? A survival guide to making the successful transition to being on your own, Environmental Protection ,  by Richard MacLean, January 2004.
  • Core EHS Competencies - Differentiating EHS competencies can distinguish superior from average performers  Environmental Protection, by Richard MacLean, June 2003.
  • Sustainable Careers Parts 1, 2 and 3, Environmental Protection , by Richard MacLean, January/February, April and September 2003.
  • Soft-ware, Hard-ware, People-ware, Chemistry Business, Journal of the American Chemistry Council, by Richard MacLean, February 2003, pp 16-18.
  • Project Will Check Pulse of Safety, Health Profession, Occupational Safety & Health Reporter, Vol. 32, No. 6, p. 121 (Feb. 7, 2002). Copyright 2002 by The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. (800-372-1033), www.bna.com.
  • Where's the EHS profession heading? Industrial Safety & Hygiene News , by James E. Leemann, December 2001. 
  • OHS Professionals Are Getting Grayer, But Are We Getting Wiser? , The Synergist, by James E. Leemann, December 2001.
  • Is the EHS Profession in Serious Trouble? EM Magazine, Air & Waste Management Association, November 2001, pp 57-59.
  • The State of the EHS ProfessionsRisk Management Review, by Dr. Paul Kleindorfer, Fall 2001.

 

 

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This page last updated December 23, 2013