New Skills, Fresh Topics for a Changing Profession
Q: As the head of the planning committee, it sounds like you've been hard at work exploring new ideas. What has the planning experience been like so far?
Paul: This year has been very invigorating because we've got such a diverse mix of companies, professional experiences and expertise contributing to the planning process. Along with these fresh faces come new perspectives, bringing forward ideas that we hadn't thought of before. The committee members have been very engaged in the process; it's been neat to see their ideas come to life.
Q: As the committee met to discuss the issues, what were some of the themes that emerged from those conversations?
Paul: Who we are as environment, health and safety, and sustainability (EHS&S) professionals continues to change and grow. We are already leading EHS&S, but now security and well-being are becoming very big issues for us. So we're starting to see more areas like these, and others, being formally assigned by our management.
The second key shift is that the overall scope of our jobs continues to expand. To do our jobs well today requires us to integrate and partner across a whole host of different functions, whether it's supply chain, procurement, engineering, human resources, commercial, legal, or research and development. It's also calling on us to interface and influence more than ever at all levels in the organization — from operators in our manufacturing plants, to local citizens, to plant and functional leaders all the way to the C-suite. The expansion of who we, what we need to be and how we can add value as EHS&S professionals is driving a lot of what we're after in this year's Forum.
Q: How will those issues be addressed in this year's agenda?
Paul: One of the big things I advocated for this year was to dedicate a track to "Skilled Leaders, Strong Culture," which would be designed to help deliver the EHS&S leaders of tomorrow. The outcome is a series of sessions that will help attendees gain a vision of where we are going as a EHS&S profession and the skills to help. How are our roles and responsibilities changing? What are the technologies and innovations that are fueling those changes? This track will also include sessions designed to help folks make the next big step in their career, whether they're going from a plant to a corporate role, or from a corporate role to leading the function for a business.
Q: And before we let you go, we would be remiss if I didn't ask you about Larry Deeny's challenge to make every year the best Forum ever. Do you have any surprises up your sleeve to try to live up to his legacy?
Paul: Of course, our goal is to deliver a great Forum (whether it is the best...we'll leave that up the the attendees). More importantly, we want people to walk away saying, "You know, this was a really really good investment for me and my organization." We're designing this year's Forum to make sure that is exactly what happens. Attendees will have new information and skills they can take back to work for themselves and new programs, systems and ideas they can take back to their organizations that will make them better, too.
And as for surprises, I will just say that while we're still finalizing the details, we're working hard to prepare our keynotes to push the boundaries of what we traditionally think about in terms of the overall impact we have as EHS&S professionals, and how we can do something that's much bigger than any single person or any one company. Be prepared: I think you're going to see some of the best keynotes we've ever had at the Forum.
Learn more and register for the 2019 Forum at ehsforum.naem.org.
About the Author
Paul's 25+ year career in EHS and sustainability affairs spans numerous industries including paper, medical device, chemicals and mail stream solutions and services. He holds a B.S. in Environmental Science from the University of Massachusetts and an M.B.A. from Suffolk University in Massachusetts. Paul and his wife, Anna, reside in Cherry Creek, Denver.