Communication essentials for EHS transformation

Convincing Leadership of on Your EHS Vision

You know where you want to take your EHS program. You see opportunities to dramatically improve the
consistency of your safety record, eliminate risks, and shift towards leading indicators.

Excellent. Now the hard work begins! And it starts with convincing the leadership.

Here are three time-honored practices to rally support for your EHS program, from corporate executives
to the plant floor, outlined by EHS expert Greg Rose at a recent client conference.

1) Connect Your EHS Initiatives To Organizational Values

You must be ready to describe a new initiative’s impact on your performance measures to help build the business case. But rely purely on numbers to tell the story. Metrics in isolation lose some real, tangible impacts of a safer workplace.

When you share updates about your EHS program, frequently link the program’s accomplishments – large and small – to your organization’s core foundational values of a safer, healthier workforce.  This approach strengthens the emotional attachment to the program and helps leadership appreciate how EHS programs contribute to broader cultural goals.

A values-driven program is also more memorable because colleagues remember and latch onto stories. 

Ask yourself:

  • Does our EHS initiative tell a story about a before-and-after transformation?
  • Do the recipients of this EHS communication understand how that transformation will improve their lives or work experience?Are the metrics I’m presenting to the organization clearly linked to the values underpinning our EHS initiative?

If not, find ways to connect those dots. You may be able to enlist the help of communications professionals within the organization. When you cement your EHS initiatives to values, it brings the program’s mission to life. And that helps generate enthusiasm and sustain commitment from the top of the organization.

As Greg states, “EHS programs reflect who we are and how we operate.” If more stakeholders recognize that, you will move faster.


2) Share the Small Victories

Find ways to communicate when you have reached key milestones in the project or achieved initial performance targets. Large transformative efforts can take months (or longer) to materialize fully, but if you wait that long to recognize the business gains, you risk losing the attention and enthusiasm of the business.

Partner with colleagues in other functions to find existing communication channels where you can weave in EHS updates. A departmental newsletter. A team town hall. An internal social media feed or Slack thread. And remember to relate those wins to the company’s values – to demonstrate the company’s commitment to being the best version of itself.

As Greg cautions, EHS professionals can get lumped into a compliance category and get ‘picked last’ on the company’s proverbial kickball team. That is a most significant risk when other departments lack an appreciation for how your initiatives will improve their lives and where you are along that journey.

3) Find Alternatives to ‘No’

When you raise the profile of your EHS initiatives, you also invite more ideas and suggestions from other departments. Colleagues who are not steeped in the details of health and safety may have suggestions that are well-intended but poorly conceived. Your gut reaction to those suggestions may be to shut them immediately.  But if you instantly discredit the first idea, you will be less likely to hear their second idea. And you risk creating a silo between operators in business units and the company’s EHS initiative.

Take the extra time, when you can spare it, to listen thoroughly to an idea offered by a colleague. Offer alternatives. Ask follow-up questions that get to the root of what they are trying to accomplish or overcome. Create a dialogue rather than issuing a denial.

These small exchanges can be significant because they illustrate that you are working with the business as a partner, not operating in a world of ‘black-and-white’ adherence to policy.

Collectively, these three EHS communications practices can reframe how leadership, and your colleagues, view your transformation initiative. Instead of an onerous project, they see the potential to demonstrate and further the company’s values. By sharing small victories along the way, you instill confidence in the program’s goals and reinforce the commitment to seeing it through. And by thoughtfully fielding ideas and suggestions – even those that may be completely untenable to start – you cement your team’s role as an enabler of business success.

Are you interested in more tips on EHS transformation?

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