EHS Strategies, Inc.

New Expectations

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Courtesy of EHS Strategies, Inc.

No one wants to buy from a company that isn’t managing its environmental, health and safety issues. Show you practice Product Stewardship.

Most customers simply assume you are in compliance with regulations and you won’t be shut down because you had a major environmental release or a worker death, i.e. your operations are in control. They assume your products are safe. Used to be, you just had to keep a low profile and keep your fingers crossed.

But an increasing number of companies who value their reputations want up front assurance. They want suppliers who will help them meet their high environmental, health and safety standards. Chemical (Rohm and Haas), electronic (Texas Instruments, GE), automobile (Toyota), and consumer (Kodak, Wal-Mart) industries and government procurers are under significant regulatory and public pressure to eliminate environmental, health and safety (EHS) risks. Leadership in environmental, health and safety responsibility is seen as key to business success - building reputation and loyalty, while at the same time avoiding costly regulations.

The linchpin is a shared commitment throughout the supply chain for product stewardship of the life cycle of a product – from design to materials acquisition, manufacture, use and final disposal. Each party needs to think about and reduce EHS impacts resulting from their actions:

• Get and share the best information you can on what hazards are present and what exposures can happen?

• Design processes and products to minimize hazards and exposures, especially at the end of the product’s life.

• Keep aware of new information and make improvements.

You can make better EHS decisions regardless of your company’s size. Design EHS advantages into your product and processes. Think of it as another set of specs. Design is the most cost-effective time to practice product stewardship. To find ways to improve your existing operations and products, use your standard management techniques (lean manufacturing, Six Sigma, QFD, etc.), analyze where you need to set priorities and make the management commitment to execute. Track progress and changes. Make improvements. Product stewardship is an ongoing management process and should be an integral part of your business.

Resources: Set priorities and hire expert consultants in environmental, health and safety, if you need help. But you can also get low cost help from government-supported small business advisers on how to prevent pollution and improve safety practices. See if your state environment and health agencies or extension programs have services. Check with your trade associations on training they may offer. Some of your large company customers or suppliers may also offer to help you learn better EHS management.

A strong product stewardship program helps you set the bar for competitive advantage. And it’s the right thing to do.

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