EHS & Sustainability Professionals Going Beyond Compliance

Nicole Wilkinson, Director, Corporate Environmental; CVS Health Corp.
Nicole Wilkinson
February 7, 2024
As the NAEM Board of Directors begins a new term, I wanted to take a few moments to reflect on where we are as a profession. And as the new Chair of the Board, I will work to ensure that NAEM continues to develop best-in-class programs and deliver value to our members and organizations that they support.

The EHS&S profession has experienced a significant evolution over the past couple of decades. While we always have and always will protect our people and our planet our roles are going well beyond the traditional compliance function. We enter the profession with various educational backgrounds and spend our early years building our technical skills to keep our companies compliant with permitting and reporting requirements. We become proficient with regulations and navigate global, federal, state and local regulatory environments. We learn to manage and analyze copious amounts of data and learn how to report out both internally and externally and provide effective visualizations. We learn and leverage framework and systems and set our companies up with processes to ensure compliance. These are some of the basics that are required for our profession.

Business competitiveness along with the declining condition of our planet is where the importance of sustainability and corporate social responsibility emerged. Our companies are now more than ever aware of the importance of managing our risks and impacts. All of which are inherently a part of what we do as EHS&S professionals, and this has naturally elevated our profession within our industries and in the entities that we support. Our profession is not only reporting our progress to our company’s Board of Directors, but EHS&S professionals are often sitting on Boards and our profession is helping lead and guide companies. Post pandemic our profession is further elevated, and our companies rely more on us now than ever.

There are many new Opportunities in our Evolving Profession:
  1. EHS&S is playing a critical role in business continuity and resiliency. Most of us participate or lead crisis management teams needed to handle vast array of natural disasters, wildfires, flooding, salt water intrusion, you name it we are dealing with it. Our once somewhat limited role in emergency response and perhaps spill clean up and protecting our colleagues from potential exposures is expanding and evolving with the vast array of natural and manmade type disasters we are now experiencing. We are a critical part of the team providing policies, training, and ensuring our companies can continue to deliver which often means we are protecting our colleagues not only on the job but ensuring safety and well-being at home during these events as well.

  2. EHS&S is going beyond health and safety, towards setting standards for total worker health and wellness. We are not only responsible for keeping our colleagues physically safe but also promoting their overall health and wellness and improving and enhancing their lives with wellness resources and programs such as mindfulness, fitness and stretching programs. We are collaborating with our HR partners to create recognition programs to help promote a safety-first culture.  We have also had to learn how to lead effectively in remote or hybrid environments. Moving beyond the basics of safety because we know when we cultivate a psychologically safe environment, we encourage open communication where our workers feel they can share concerns and ideas which leads to improved engagement and safer outcomes. We understand that overall health and wellness allows our workers to bring their best to work every day.

  3. EHS&S is driving shareholder value in setting and supporting ESG goals and strategies. Many of us have responsibilities to setting or delivering on our company’s science-based targets and ESG commitments. We are making huge strides in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and combatting climate change. We are innovating new waste management programs, technologies and infrastructure and striving for zero waste certifications. Our work extends beyond our own companies and impacts and influences across the supply chain. Our external reporting now driven by not only stakeholder value but by government and regulations.

  4. EHS&S is preventing and addressing workplace violence and supporting Corporate Security teams. Our employee safety programs are evolving to address the increased risk in workplace violence and social unrest. We are focusing on code of conduct policies and de-escalation training programs to meet these increased demands and emerging state level regulations. These new focus areas are needed to cultivate a safe environment.

  5. EHS&S is delivering value through cutting-edge software management solutions and technology applications that allow our companies to be leaders. Our metrics and dashboards are playing critical roles in supporting our operations partners not only to track compliance but to help them deliver operational excellence and promote a strong EHS culture. Our Management Information Systems are becoming critical tools allowing us to meet both internal and external reporting requirements and demands.
To meet these ever-growing demands EHS&S professionals need a trusted resource for professional news, benchmarking, knowledge sharing and community. NAEM has always been my “go to” place for those resources and support throughout my career. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to give back through my leadership role on the Board of Directors and am committed to continuing the vitality and relevance of NAEM for today’s and tomorrow’s EHS&S leaders.   


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About the Author

Nicole Wilkinson, Director, Corporate Environmental; CVS Health Corp.
Nicole Wilkinson
CVS Health | NAEM Board of Directors
As Executive Director of Corporate Health, Safety & Environment (HSE) Nicole provides strategic direction and enterprise oversight of HSE programs for CVS Health. With over twenty years of experience in the development and management of environmental permitting, compliance, and sustainability programs, she is an accomplished EHS professional with strong leadership and communication skills Prior to joining CVS Health, she managed environmental and safety programs for Dominion Power generation facilities in the Northeast and Midwest ten years after starting her career as a civil & environmental engineering consultant helping commercial and industrial clients with innovative solutions for site design and environmental permitting services.

She holds a B.S. in Civil & Environmental Engineering from Roger Williams University and a M.S. in Natural Resources from the University of Rhode Island.

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