EHS Organizational Quality: A DuPont Case Study

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Courtesy of Richard MacLean & Associates, LLC

Major environmental, health, and safety (EHS) organizational restructurings have been, for the most part, managed by default— that is, driven by broader business reorganizations and financial considerations, rather than by self-initiated efforts by EHS senior managers.

The mid- to late 1990s were a particularly turbulent time for EHS organizations. Viewed as service providers (i.e., overhead) by business management, they were caught up in wave after wave of restructurings that outsourced and/or consolidated these activities into shared service departments. Reorganization fever has tapered off more recently, and, over the past five years, managers have fine-tuned their organizations to repair some of the bad calls made during this aggressive period of service restructurings. But, if anything, the pressure placed on EHS departments “to do more with less” has only intensified.

What are today’s best practices? The recent retirement of Paul Tebo, Vice President of Safety, Health & Environment (SHE) at DuPont prompted the company to rethink its EHS organizational strategy.1 Already considered one of the best EHS organizations in industry, what could it do to improve?

About This Research

For the past several years, the Center for Environmental Innovation has been examining the characteristics of high-performing environmental, health, and safety organizations. Called “Organizations in Transition,” the focus of the work has been on large corporations because these generally have the most mature organizational practices. Because of their size and their layered structure (encompassing the corporate, business group or sector, and facility levels), large corporations can also afford a window into best practices for small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

The classic organizational elements (such as size, structure, and communication links) are being evaluated for their capacity to efficiently deliver services of high value to business. In other words, is an organization able to achieve an appropriate blend of what the customer desires and requires, and at an optimum cost? The identity of the “customer” varies considerably depending on whether one is considering the “wants and needs” of the board of directors, a marketing manager, or a plant manager. In addition, the concept of meeting customer wants and needs has taken on added dimensions that include the ability to deal effectively with emerging stakeholder issues driven typically by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).

The challenge, of course, is to get the blend right. That’s what this research is about. To date, this effort has produced journal articles on the evolution of EHS organizational strategy, 2 the definition of superior organizational performance,3 a screening protocol for high-performing organizations,4 and the growing influence of NGOs on EHS organizations.5 It has also produced an interim report.6 Additional information on this research can be obtained at www.enviro- innovate.org.

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