In the past, environmental, health and safety (EH&S) compliance performance and/or enterprise risk management programs have been geared toward delivering continuous improvement and/or reducing risk with a compartmentalized approach. The safety department tended to workplace safety issues, the transportation department ensured the safe and compliant movement of regulated materials, and the regulatory department maintained community and environmental compliance at all agency levels.
Recently, however, companies that want to deliver sustainable, ongoing improvements in compliance and risk associated with the management of chemicals are taking a full-lifecycle approach to understanding and managing chemical product compliance.
How does a chemist involved in research and development become aware of the impact of transportation regulations on the chemistry of a new product? Not so long ago, an adverse regulatory impact outside his or her area of concentration, would likely be discovered downstream, well after significant resource and financial investment. However, the advent and adoption of enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems and the power of web-accessible and integrated chemical data, regulatory repositories and EH&S systems tools have made it easier to exchange knowledge and information.
Adding to the diverse and ever-evolving regulatory landscape, the global economy continues to introduce new variables into the compliance and risk equation. The cost of non-compliance, or excessive risk, is no longer limited to fines and penalties, nor does it solely affect a small group of technically trained and experienced employees. On the contrary, compliance and risk are associated with brand, image and, in the end, customer loyalty.
Breaking down a complex undertaking
As a global compliance or risk professional or business leader charged with corporate leadership in this area, how do you approach it? We suggest looking at three distinct levers: regulatory content and information, compliance tasks and activities, and technology applications and platforms.
How are you currently managing regulatory content and information across the product lifecycle? What are the activities, tasks and controls you have in place to manage compliance and risks associated with the product you purchase, produce or dispose of? Have you maximized the use of data, platforms, applications and automation tools to help you complete compliance-related tasks and keep you informed about how you are tracking against a plan?
Finally, as you develop a plan around these levers, have you objectively analyzed which functions need to be managed internally and which capabilities require third-party solutions and expertise?
With key compliance and risk levers identified, what implementation and activation strategies can be deployed to accommodate businesses of varying sizes and complexities? With answers to these questions in hand, it may be time to view the totality of your EH&S activities from a chemical lifecycle perspective.
Applying the levers to the lifecycle: R&D
R&D and formulation laboratories are well positioned to make the biggest impact on going green, and may receive the least attention from a compliance or risk professional. Scientists and engineers working in R&D can be made aware of global regulatory requirements and chemical characteristics (e.g., toxicological or eco-toxicological data) through commercial data aggregators.