Future-Proof EHS Compliance & Boost Performance: Q&A with Rachel Degenhardt Karpovich at Enhesa
Rachel, what is the greatest EHS challenge that you are seeing in the industry?
One of the greatest challenges that I see in the industry is the wealth of regulatory compliance concerns at all levels, including federal, state, and municipal. Now we’re even seeing cities regulate EHS issues. In China, a lot of my current clients are very concerned with city-level EHS regulations. For example, companies in Shanghai have to consider Chinese law, provincial law, and municipal regulations. To make matters worse, when you look at the layers of compliance that companies are facing, the people handling this are not necessarily situated in that jurisdiction. It’s a huge undertaking.
How do you convince an executive to invest in an EHS or GRC software platform (or other IT tool for risk, compliance, supply chain, CSR, etc.) in these times of budgetary restrictions?
In the EHS arena, the failure to acknowledge and adapt to changing risks is truly much more costly than implementing an EHS management system. The cost of non-compliance, the cost of enforcement-related litigation, and the cost of failing to recognize known risks can be fatal. It’s much cheaper to comply with the law than to have an enforcement case against you.
It can be expensive to invest in the system and expensive to invest in the content, but it’s much more expensive to deal with legal fees, settlement actions, loss of life, and bad PR. When you take a balanced view, compliance makes more sense. Besides, a dynamic system or platform enables you to translate data into usable information to make a case to the Board of Directors, make the PR case or make the case for consumers. Increasing accessibility to the information for different audiences adds business value.
What is your role in helping companies adapt?
I focus a lot on training, not only training on what compliance issues are relevant but also training users to think about compliance in everyday activities. My perspective is not necessarily training around processes so much as training for the future to change the way people think.
For example, one part of this process requires you to think of how your compliance looks today while another involves looking 12 months or 2 years into the future. Once our clients realize that changing the process in 6 months will also necessitate training around that process, they often decide to combine the forecasting piece with training.
How do you add more value to an EHS platform?
I’m platform-neutral but what Enablon and similar platform providers do is take Enhesa content and give it desirable and robust functionality. Our regulatory research addresses each part of the compliance process, so you could say that we are the brains and Enablon is the power. In particular, Enhesa offers specialized and localized knowledge through our people, which adds tremendous value to a platform.
For example, I was a regulatory consultant when I started with Enhesa. I grew up in Texas and can say I speak “Texan.” But we also have people who grew up in China, India and Russia, and they have also become experts in their field. Beyond their degrees and credentials, what makes them great is their deep understanding of the language, political climate, and regulatory enforcement climate of their locations.
What does it take to turn the information management system into an integrated platform capable of translating compliance activities into better performance?
Operational teams must adopt programs from the corporate level down. For company-wide adoption, these programs require trust, both from the corporation and in the content. One key aspect of our compliance programs is determining the tools that are necessary. After that, our focus shifts to training. If we train at all levels, then the systems have value and the staff recognizes it quickly.
All systems have strengths and weaknesses, and addressing those head-on as a company prevents systematic gaps in information and holes in EHS programs. But people must lead by example, from decision-makers to members of each and every team. Communication and training are key. Ultimately, universal adoption leads to better data and improved morale.
I would add that selecting a tool is not the end of the process; it’s only the beginning. Results, statistics, and data are only useful with time. The rewards and benefits are not always immediate. So it is that strategic thinking and commitment to a 3-5 years of use that is important to realize upon adoption of a tool.
What makes for a successful implementation?
A successful implementation calls for training and user buy-in. There is a wealth of tools that can be implemented at all levels to manage risk, track compliance, and assist with corporate oversight and decision-making. Ultimately, if the tools aren’t used or the comfort with using the tools in daily operations isn’t evident, then you don’t get buy-in from end-users. Without users adopting technology and the information available to them, the systems will fail.
What was your key big takeaway from SPF Americas?
The thing I take away from conferences like this is that there are so many perspectives to think about when you’re looking at a compliance system. There are so many aspects to a compliance system, so much so that we need a forum to discuss them. My clients seldom get to talk to their industry peers facing the same challenges. Having the opportunity to have conversations with peers and discuss how to tackle issues make events like SPF invaluable.
Keep following SPF interviews on Enablon Insights for more thought leadership from leading EHS, compliance, risk and sustainability experts. Visit also the webpage on Enablon's 2016 SPF Series.
SPF Americas 2016 will take place on October 4-5 in Chicago, and will bring together more than 500 EHS, Sustainability, Risk and IT professionals from the world’s largest corporations. Register today and don’t miss out on 50+ sessions and countless opportunities to network with your peers.