I got a chuckle reading Frank Brandauer's post on "sustainability" being the new bully in the EHS world…slowly pushing "safety" out of the EHS acronym. I guess it reminded me of the days when "ergonomics" was (and still is in many cases) the "bully" a few years back; EHS professionals often got ergonomics dumped on their plates because it seemed like a natural fit – there's an "E" in EHS isn't there?!
We have always pushed the idea that ergonomics isn't a health & safety concern, it's an engineering concern…it only becomes a health & safety concen if somebody gets injured! This paradigm shift has helped companies successfully transition ergonomics away from an already-overloaded EHS department, into the proactive world of designing equipment and engineering processes correctly the first time.
This shift in thinking (from reacting to injuries, to designing workplaces) didn't take ownership of ergonomics away from EHS, but it did (and does) alter the department's role in the company. Taking a proactive approach means adding value to the organization, it means integrating engineering, manufacturing and other disciplines to focus on improving business outcomes (safety) by showcasing the broader based ROI (productivity and quality gains, lower costs, etc.).
The area of Sustainability seems to also offer this opportunity. As Frank suggested in his post, being a leader in corporate sustainability means bridging the gaps between disparate areas of the company. The key is to show value. Have you seen the new commercials from IBM about being green? The key question is asked, "where is the business value in tree hugging?" That is the type of question that needs to be continually answered by EHS professionals.