Tech companies big and small are expanding globally. From increasing sales to decreasing costs to filling a market need, there are a myriad of reasons why tech companies go global.
Environment, health and safety (EHS) compliance requirements in new countries are often unforeseen obstacles to a tech company's expansion plans, especially when there are limited EHS resources to begin with. Navigating these new requirements, in different languages and cultures, can be tricky.
Here we dive into some of the most common EHS compliance challenges global companies face as well as tips for overcoming them.
Challenge 1: Understanding the EHS legal requirements of a country.
Legal requirements can vary widely from country to country, even for offices, and companies have to rely on locals to be knowledgeable on those requirements and regulations, with practical solutions that are not too complicated, especially for lower-risk operations like offices.
Tip: Make contact with your local embassy. Embassies are in a great position to help you find information on legal compliance requirements, whether it’s organizations you can work with or contacts who can answer questions. Get started by checking out the embassy’s website. Most will have a dedicated business section that includes basic information for getting started and a list of contact information for embassy officials.
Challenge 2: Knowing how standards and changes to those standards apply to your particular business.
Beyond the legal differences that can exist between countries, understanding how those standards or requirements apply to your specific business and what is actually required for compliance can be buried in legal jargon.
Tip: Put together a proactive plan that maps how you’ll track legal changes and weave them into your EHS operations. If you don’t have the in-house expertise or resources, engage an global EHS consulting firm with have trustworthy and knowledgeable contacts in countries around the world. While hiring an EHS consulting firm is an additional cost, an independent and objective third-party can bring valuable, broad-based knowledge and expertise to the table, as well as confidence that you are protecting your company’s employees and brand.
Challenge 3: Navigating cultural, environmental and political differences.
A country’s local customs and languages, political climate and hot-button environmental issues can have a large impact on how easily a company is able to operate and manage EHS at a facility or office there.
Tip: Research the country’s history and get up to speed on current events. Start out by visiting the country’s official government website and associated information portals. These websites house a wealth of information about a country’s history, politics, economics and culture, as well as the latest news news and happenings. In addition, make sure you understand local religious restrictions that may impact your EHS programs. For example, some religions restrict interactions with the opposite sex, which may need to be taken into account when creating emergency response programs. Seek out expert, on-the-ground support to help reduce and mitigate the risks you face growing and expanding into a foreign environment.
Challenge 4: Communication disconnect between corporate and the local team.
Despite a company’s best efforts, when offices and facilities operate thousands of miles from headquarters—and often in different time zones—things can get missed.
Tip: Create a detailed workflow that maps the roles and responsibilities of people at every level, and develop a system to ensure that responsibilities are agreed upon by all parties, actions are completed on schedule, and results are documented and communicated. This is a great way to defend against communication breakdowns, stay on top of changing regulations, and make sure every team member is educated on their role and global protocols.
Challenge 5: Knowing if you’ve actually achieved and are maintaining compliance.
Communication issues, distance and uncertainty as to who is responsible for various compliance requirements can hinder an EHS manager’s ability to know whether a) the company is currently compliant, and b) if compliance can be sustained.
Tip: Look at EHS compliance as a journey and manage compliance in stages. Start with achieving local compliance to ensure your company is protected on foreign soil. Then work to meet corporate standards. For each stage, develop an EHS checklist that can be used to track implementation. Once all the boxes are checked, you’ll be able to use the checklist to manage compliance going forward. You’ll also be able to easily update it if certain regulations change. For companies with limited EHS resources, engage various stakeholders such as human resources, facilities maintenance, and security to help support your programs.