Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS) departments are in transition. Companies are "right-sizing" their EHS departments and integrating responsibilities into line organizations. Traditional EHS issues are expanding to include corporate social responsibility. In addition, the EHS profession is reaching a new level of maturity with the evolution of standardized management systems. EHS departments, which were relatively shielded from cost cutting pressures during the early 1990s, are now feeling the full brunt of the current economic downturn.
Clearly, the dynamics in play present competitive opportunities for companies that are properly staffed and structured to take advantage of emerging trends. But how does one achieve organizational effectiveness? What are the leading companies doing to improve both their competitive position and at the same time assure proactive social responsibility? What strategies and tactics do corporate decision makers believe in, especially in the wake of major mergers or divestments?
James R. Hendricks, Jr., Vice President Corporate EHS, Duke Energy supports a rigorous examination of how leading companies staff and organize, This CEI / BU collaboration comes at a time when even the best must re-assess and challenge how they operate. To be competitive today one must achieve superiority in both individual and organizational effectiveness.
This research program will also be investigating the internal processes, including organizational issues related to the preparation of environmental and community reports.
Research Project Description
This project, Organizations in Transition, examines the current approaches taken by companies to size and organize their EHS departments. The goal is to develop a real-time assessment of best practices, practices to avoid, and key characteristics for successful organizational transitions. Both "solid" (e.g., formal, direct reporting) and "dotted line" (e.g., influence, matrix, virtual) relationships will be considered in defining these best practices. In July 2001, preliminary work began to organize the project, gain initial funding and support, and initiate the background literature search (now underway).
The first project phase will be a series of detailed interviews with corporations that: (1) have recently undergone a major merger or acquisition; (2) have superior rankings for EHS performance; (3) have excellent reputations for social responsible behavior; and/or (4) are considered by opinion leaders as having particularly effective EHS organizations. Both EHS staff and business management will be interviewed. The objective is to examine the relationship between staffing strategy and success in achieving business objectives for social responsibility.
Guidelines will be differentiated according to the needs of small, medium, and large companies and major industry sectors. The first sector to be evaluated is the energy industry. In addition, key internal EHS-related processes that require cross-functional groups operating as a team will be examined. The first process to be evaluated is the preparation of external environmental and social responsibility disclosures, since assembly of this information involves input, review and approval by a wide cross-section of independent functional groups. Additional workshops, surveys, and interviews focusing on specific issues such as shared services, trans-national organizations, and outsourcing are also in the planning stage.
George Nagle, Senior Director – Environmental, Health and Safety, Bristol-Myers Squibb Company, states that, Volumes have been written on business organizational strategy, however EHS staffing and organizational issues have unique nuances. We are looking forward to this project filling the knowledge gaps.
Although the entire project will span more than a year, the sharing of information at the workshops and the preliminary reports for review and comment will provide immediate value to the sponsors and participants. Articles will be published in a variety of journals and professional magazines to reach environmental, health and safety practitioners, HR managers, and business executives.
Project Management and Support
Organizations in Transition is being managed by the Center for Environmental Innovation (CEI), a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit, in collaboration with Boston University’s School of Management (BU). The project combines the talents of senior university researchers (Professor Andrew Hoffman at Boston University and Richard MacLean at Arizona State Universitys School of Business) with senior environmental executives with extensive industry experience (Frank Friedman and Steve Rice).
The project team is working with the EPA’s Office of Policy, Economics, and Innovation in developing this effort. Initial financial support for this ambitious project has been received from leading domestic and international companies such as Anheuser Busch Companies, BHP Billiton, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Clean Harbors Environmental Services, Consolidated Edison, Duke Energy Corporation, Lockheed Martin, Ontario Power Generation, United Cites Gas, and Williams Companies. Additional funding is being sought from foundations and other organizations supporting innovative university research.