I am often asked questions such as “Do our policies need updating?” “What is the ideal metric set for our company?” “What emerging trends will impact our business?” or “What is the best management system?” These questions are inevitably framed as separate, standalone requests. But, in fact, they are all closely related and interdependent.
“Shoot, ready, aim” comes to mind when examining some strategic planning processes. For example, the individual
steps, such as benchmarking with peer companies, may be completed with brilliant detail, but all this hard work is to no
avail if the company’s business objectives are not thoroughly understood. What if executives have recently developed an interest in “best in class” in areas beyond the boundaries of their industry sector? Oops!
THE TACTICAL APPROACH
Figure 1 illustrates the typical real-world sequence for developing or modifying an environment, health, and safety and
social responsibility (EH&S & SR) strategic or budget plan. Attention is first given to the compliance infrastructure—the
“must-have” elements. Next, legacy practices built over the lifespan of the company are given primacy. Added to this core framework are the internal dynamics that would influence the strategy or budget: the latest beliefs, rumors, or whatever may be going on in the company.
For example, the marketing department may have expressed interest in jumping on the current attention to green markets, and/or budgets could be tightening across all staff departments.
Once the current state is defined, attention is shifted to the external world beyond regulations. What is the competition
doing? What are the latest best practices? What do stakeholders want and expect? For example, the Global Reporting Initiative sets disclosure guidelines that, for some companies, serve as the underpinning of their metric system. This mix of information is then mulled over by a group of EH&S & SR professionals, sometimes supported by staff from other
functional areas, who decide what the recommended plan should be and if any policy modifications are necessary.
Rarely is external, independent assessment and analysis added to the mix.