For EH&S professionals, 2020 was a challenging year, but 2021 is certain to have more of the same with some additional obstacles to manage. COVID-19 is still with us, the US has a new administration in the White House, global regulatory changes continue to march onward, and companies are now looking at sustainability with more seriousness than ever before.
What’s in store for this year? Our team of EHS experts weighed in as part of our Top EHS Trends for 2021 webinar. Five EHS trends to watch in 2021:
Trend #1: Work from home is here to stay
Large companies announcing employees can work-from-home long term, “The 9-5 Workday is Dead”, and up to 30% of workers say they would quit if they had to return to the office when the pandemic is over. It sure doesn’t sound like work from home is changing anytime soon, much less in 2021.
Uneven restrictions across the globe because of COVID-19 haven’t made things any easier for businesses. In the EU, lockdowns and travel limitations remain. In the US, some states have begun to eliminate mask mandates and capacity limits at public gathering places, but companies continue to toe the line to keep their employees safe. If you work for one of those businesses, RegScan’s i-Comply Home Office Rules can help you given that in many countries, employers are responsible for the health and safety aspects of home offices.
Trend #2: Technology Investments
In 2020, we thought high tech tools and methods would take over the world of not only EHS, but also the work environment in general. COVID-19 made sure of that and then some. Reliance on web conferencing platforms, new communication tools for auditors and regulators, and even use of drones became the norm for many businesses in 2021. EHS professionals continue to align information awareness and compliance management, and with renewed emphasis given the volume of emergency regulatory activity in 2020. Investments in technology have and will continue to make that easier.
Trend #3: Environmental Policy Impacts
Environmental policy should be at the forefront of regulatory actions for plenty of regions around the world, with renewed focus in the US because of a new Biden Administration. Climate change remains top of mind. In the EU and UK, the goal of a circular economy stays a point of emphasis. In the US, a series of executive orders appears aimed at reversing policy decisions of the prior administration, including revoking the Keystone Pipeline permit, pausing new oil and natural gas leases, and the creation of a Climate Change Task Force.
Trend #4: Global Regulatory Challenges
It is difficult to underestimate how much COVID-19 has impacted businesses and their Health and Safety teams. Ensuring safety in the workplace grew in complexity as a result of the pandemic, particularly in the area of injury and illness prevention and reporting. As a result, it is no wonder Respiratory Protection was #3 in OSHA’s Top 10 most frequently cited standards in 2020. In addition, training and retraining of health and safety measures will be something to watch as workforces are reintegrated into the workplace.
Beyond COVID-19, there were plenty of air, water, and waste regulatory changes across the globe. China and Italy, along with several other countries, enacted new emissions standards and limitations. The EU led the way in new standards designed to increase water reuse as part of a circular economy. Other countries, including the UK, China, Thailand, and Switzerland, updated their waste management regulations to support circular economy goals as well. Altogether, air, water, and waste regulations made up over 50% of regulatory activity across the 200+ jurisdictions RegScan covers, as determined by our new RegTracker product.
Trend #5: Sustainability
If you have been watching business news, your social media feeds, or press releases, you know companies continue to make statements and set goals regarding sustainability, i.e., how their business operations can reduce the impact on the environment. Just in the last few months: Eastman’s commitment to recycle more than 500 million pounds of plastic waste annually by 2030, Schneider’s commitment to reduce carbon emissions by 60 percent per mile by 2035, and Bridgestone announced the issue of a $1.1 billion sustainability-linked credit facility, one of the first of its kind in the U.S. tire industry.
In response to what we hear from clients and the changing landscape for ESG, RegScan will be providing a Sustainability product in the coming months. Initially, it will cover changes in sustainability regulations and checklists on sustainability frameworks. More to come!