Weathering the Storm: Can the environmental industry stay afloat in a sinking economy?

How will regulating agencies deal with budgetary shortfalls and staff layoffs? As the private sector struggles to reduce costs, will these companies do more in-house environmental work or cut back on projects (even at the risk of noncompliance)? For the consulting industry, will projects dry up and force staff cuts? Or will clients, as they reduce environmental departments, reach out more to their consultants to get the critical work done? As for the remainder of 2009, will the government stimulus package make much of a difference?

“Our top management is fully aware that having strong environmental management programs contributes to the success of the company, so during our most recent staff reductions, environmental departments at world headquarters and our manufacturing facilities were mostly unaffected,” says Ferdinand Alido, environmental affairs manager for Navistar, a truck manufacturer headquartered in Chicago, IL.

Compliance Projects Moving Forward Dave Jordan, project manager for Environmental Resource Management (ERM), an international consulting firm in Indianapolis, IN, reports a slight downturn in business but not to the point of laying off employees. “For our clients, capital projects seem to be deferred or delayed,” he says. “We’re also seeing less need for assistance in filling out permit applications.” Some clients, he adds, are trying to do more internally, but most still rely on his company to complete their monthly, quarterly, and annual reports.

Kevin Eldridge, client services manager with Weston Solutions in Raleigh, NC, reports a similar trend. “Compliance projects are still going forward,” he says. “I have seen a slowing in the issuance of purchase orders, but that usually happens around this time of year, so I can’t relate it directly to the economy. There have been many layoffs of employees at industrial facilities in North Carolina, but those have not been with any of my clients.”

Most companies remain committed to continuing their daily activities on the environmental work they are obligated to do. “They know they can’t let that go and risk noncompliance,” says Jordan.

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