Strategic Direction in a Competitive Environment

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EHS Advisor Abstracts

This section contains abstracts for various articles Mr. MacLean has published. To be notified of new articles as they become available, please join our email list.

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November 2001
Is The EH&S Profession in Serious Trouble?

The experience gained over the past 30 years in solving local pollution issues and addressing employee health and safety concerns properly positions U.S. government and industry to face emerging global environmental challenges...or does it?

July 2001
Small Business, Big Problems
Emerging Trends in EH&S Consulting

This month, EH&S Advisor explores the struggle of small businesses implementing and sustaining environmental, health, and safety (EH&S) programs. Most small businesses don't have the workload or the resources to justify employing a full-time EH&S person, yet their regulatory needs or operational concerns may demand the expertise of an experienced professional. Picking names from the Yellow Pages to help resolve issues that could make or break a small firm is never the best strategy when seeking expertise. Over the past decade, there has emerged a new breed of consultant that uses new marketing techniques to fill this void; the person I call the "trusted partner."

March 2001
Find Out Who Really Runs the Show: 
If you don't get their buy-in, your projects and programs go nowhere

Within all organizations there are the "wise ones" who have enormous power and influence over what is accepted and what gets trashed. These individuals can be at any organizational level. Even some of the lowest on the organization chart command the ear of the CEO. You need to find out who these individuals are in your organization and win them over if you expect to be successful in rolling out new programs.

February 2001
Moving Beyond "Talking Heads" Education

One of the most important roles that environmental, health and safety professionals share is that of educator. The woeful cry of all too many of our colleagues is, "If only they'd just get it." "They" might be executive management, employees with EHS responsibilities, the community, or for that matter, just about any stakeholder unfamiliar with EHS issues. Sorry readers, if they are clueless, it may be because we are poor educators.


The EHS Advisor takes a look at adult education this month. There is more to it than you may think. Unfortunately, our role model of how to educate is based on the primary and secondary education system that we endured while growing up. Talking heads - the foundation of how we were taught - does not cut it with adults. There are better techniques.

January  2001 
New World Consulting
  - A look at the future of environmental consulting

Last month the EHS Advisor explored the sometimes troubled relationship between consultants and clients. This month we pick up where we left off and examine the changing world of client - consulting relationships. We take a look into the crystal ball and speculate how consulting may change in the future. Historically, predictions make liars out of nearly all those who foretell the future. Nevertheless, the dominate forces that will shape this evolution are real and already well underway.

December 2000 

"Why Consultants Generally Suck"
       Fortune, May 29, 2000

When I first read this provocative title of Stanley Bing's column in Fortune, I said to myself, "Whew! Is this guy talking about me?" He was. I read on and concluded that, yes, he did have a point. For that matter, clients can also suck. The problem is that consultants and their clients often do not treat each other very well and, for that matter, neither do we communicate all that well.

This month The EHS Advisor takes a look at the chasm that can sometimes exist between clients and consultants. We offer some suggestions on how to close the gap.

November 2000 

Doing the Deal
    Part 3 – Enhanced Environmental Due Diligence

With Daniel Goldstein, Environmental Resources Management, Inc., Annapolis, MD
Providing support for major business transactions is arguably the most important strategic responsibility of an EHS manager. The potential cost savings (if done correctly) or liabilities created (if done poorly) can be enormous. A company may bet its future success on a single business acquisition or merger. Even purchases or divestments of plant and equipment can profoundly affect a company.

This is the final of a three-part EHS Advisor column on business transactions. In September 2000 we explored the politics of "doing the deal" and some best management practices of leading companies based on a survey by Richard MacLean. Last month, we examined specific approaches to business risk assessments. We now analyze the value of environmental management system assessments in mergers and acquisitions activities.

October 2000 

Doing the Deal
    Part 2 – Property Assessments

With Roger Funston, Kennedy Jenks, Bakersfield, CA
Providing support for major business transactions is arguably the most important strategic responsibility of an EHS manager. The potential cost savings (if done correctly) or liabilities created (if done poorly) can be enormous. A company may bet its future success on a single business acquisition or merger. Even purchases or divestments of plant and equipment can profoundly affect a company.

This is the second of a three-part EHS Advisor column on business transactions. In September 2000 we explored the politics of "doing the deal" and some best management practices of leading companies based on a survey by Richard MacLean. In this second, we examine specific approaches to business risk assessments based on input from experienced consultants. In the final appearing in November 2000, we analyze the value of environmental management systems assessments in mergers and acquisitions activities.

September 2000 

Doing the Deal
    Part 1- The high stakes in business transactions

Providing support for major business transactions is arguably the most important strategic responsibility of an EHS manager. The potential cost savings (if done correctly) or liabilities created (if done poorly) can be enormous. A company may bet its future success on a single business acquisition or merger. Even purchases or divestments of plant and equipment can profoundly affect a company.

With so much at stake, one would expect that EHS support for business transactions is a finely tuned and closely managed operation. Wrong. It is often ad hoc, with the EHS managers brought in at the 11th hour to rubber stamp a deal steam rolling along.

This is the first of a three-part EHS Advisor column on business transactions. In this, the first, we explore the internal politics of "doing the deal" based on a survey of best management practices of leading companies conducted by Richard MacLean. In the second appearing next month, we examine specific approaches to property risk assessments. In the final, appearing in November 2000, we analyze the value of environmental management system assessments in merger and acquisition activities.

August 2000  

Metrics Will Matter

EHS managers pride themselves in utilizing the very latest software systems to collect and track metrics. The displays are impressive and the reports may give one a good feeling of being in control. In reality, some EHS managers may be winning the battle to efficiently sort data, but loosing the strategic war to gain competitive advantage for their companies. Metrics theory and practice has undergone a quiet revolution over the past five years and the long term business implications are truly awesome.

This is the first of several columns that will be devoted to EHS metrics over the next year. Future columns will examine the "what and the how" of metrics and this one takes a look at the why, namely emerging trends that will drive more robust metric systems. If this material is new to you, I recommend that you become a very fast learner - the long term implications for your company may be very significant.

July 2000

Vision Alignment
- Seeing eye to eye with business management

In a number of these columns over the past year I have stressed the importance of gaining closure with management, their true objectives and goals. They may say "environmental excellence," but may act like they want basic compliance at minimum cost. Others may be frustrated that greater progress isn't forthcoming. Such disconnects can be a tremendous source of confusion and frustration among EHS professionals.

This month's EHS Advisor takes a closer look at the issue and offers suggestions on how you can gain closure with management. The advice is primarily directed at mid-to large corporations where access to upper management is at a premium. The underlying principles hold true, however, for small companies and individual manufacturing sites.

June 2000

Corporate Environmental Reports
     - Three dimensions to success

Early environmental reports were thinly veiled public relations exercises. Dubbed "greenwash," they angered many stakeholders. Over the past decade industry, regulatory agencies, and Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) have issued more than thirty standards for corporate reporting. Clearly, there is more guidance and tools available today, but has actual practice met stakeholder needs?

The EHS Advisor offers some suggestions for making your reporting credible. It's harder than you think, judging from our evaluation of recent reports. Reporting has grown more sophisticated, but so too have expectations and analysis techniques. What may be viewed by many as excellent reporting may be judged by others as flawed, inconsistent, and even deceitful. How do you avoid the greenwash traps that can prove to be embarrassing, if not damaging to your company's reputation? Start with a three dimensional evaluation.

May 2000

Strategic Environmental Management
    - Essential Resources
With Steve Rice, Environmental Opportunities, Inc., Florham Park, NJ

Will Rogers once said "It's not what we don't know that hurts, its what we know that ain't so." When it comes to running an environmental organization business executives may think that any skilled manager can do it. We've seen individuals with a wide range of backgrounds assigned EHS leadership positions. The assumption may be that management skills alone will lead to EHS excellence. That sure helps, but it is no guarantee.

The successful managers are the ones that draw from their prior experience, but also recognize that some of these principles may not apply anymore, and indeed may now be counter productive. There may be a whole lot more to this EHS game than meets the eye. The EHS Advisor takes a look at the basic resource library that every EHS manager should have nearby and how to use this information effectively. This article is not about regulatory compliance, nor is it about basic management skills; it's about resources to strategically manage EHS.

April 2000

Should E be Separate or Combined With H&S?
With Cord Jones, Organizations Resources Counselors, Washington, DC

President Kennedy reportedly once said that he only wanted one-handed lawyers. That way they could not say, "On the one hand . . . But on the other hand . . . " This month we explore the advantages and disadvantages of combining the staffs of all three professional disciplines -- environmental, health, safety -- into a single, integrated organization. We will examine organizational trends and the reasons underlying the changes. Since both authors are not lawyers, we will not only explore current practice and alternatives, but will also offer our opinion. Whether your present E - H - S organization is integrated or separate, this article may offer some insight into making a better organization.


March 2000

Crystal Ball Gazing
    -  A Critical Examination of the Environmental Profession in the New Millennium

As I sit down to write this month's EHS Advisor it is the first week of the new millennium. Caught up in the wave of New Year reflections on the past and forecasts of the future, I took a close look into my crystal ball to see what's on the horizon for environmental professionals. You may not like what I see. Whether you strongly agree or disagree with the conclusions reached, I look forward to your feedback.


February 2000
EHS Management Systems
    - Easy to Understand . . . Difficult to Successfully Implement
With William Sugar, Anheuser-Busch Companies, Inc., St. Louis, MO

Over the past decade and especially since the 1996 introduction of ISO 14001, EHS managers have moved towards a "management system" approach to implement environmental, health and safety programs. Environmental Management Systems (EMS) have the potential to yield significant value through the systematic implementation and continuous improvement of EHS programs.

The concepts that form the foundation of an EMS are very simple to comprehend and articulate. So too are the concepts underlying many other business techniques such as Reengineering, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), and Total Quality Management (TQM). Indeed, TQM forms much of the sub-structure of an EMS. As simple as these business strategies are conceptually, they are deceptively challenging to implement and achieve their full value. Rolling out an EMS is no exception. You may have an EMS in place, but is it delivering the full benefits you expected? This article discusses a number of key, but often overlooked steps in implementing a successful EMS.

January 2000
Follow the Money
    - Putting the E in Enterprise Resource Planning Systems
With Cindy Moeckel, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona

"Deep Throat," the government insider who guided the two Washington Post reporters to uncover the truth behind the botched Watergate burglary gave a key piece of advice – "Follow the money." EHS managers must have a well developed understanding of their company’s management information systems and accounting – the money trail. Armed with knowledge of information systems and reports, EHS managers can see how decisions are made, who participates, what the major objectives are, and how best to influence management. Finally, if they can point out in common financial terms how EHS programs add value to the business, EHS managers are also better prepared to justify new programs or maintain essential resource levels when costs are being cut.

This article points out a two-stage revolution in management thinking and the management information systems that support it. The march towards enterprise resource planning (ERP) is on. Unfortunately, EHS issues have been for the most part left on the sidelines, given little consideration in the perspectives and information systems that are shaping this revolution. If your company has moved or is in the process of moving towards an ERP system such as SAP or J.D. Edwards, it will be important to fully understand the long-term implications for EHS. The most immediate impact will be on the design of the Environmental Management Information Systems (EMIS).

December 1999
Thinking Outside the Box
    - Supply Chain Environmental Management brings strategic thinking beyond the factory walls
With Dr. Riva Krut, Benchmark Environmental Consulting, Hartsdale, NY

Environmental, health and safety programs historically have been focused on the activities in and around the factory walls. No longer. Corporations are expanding their attention to include EHS issues and opportunities derived from improved supplier and customer relationships -- the entire supply chain from cradle to grave. Called Supply Chain Environmental Management, SCEM may be a strategy to position your company to reduce supplier costs and provide greater value to your customers.

SCEM is a growing issue that is receiving increased attention in a variety of sectors, particularly electronics. It holds strong implications for suppliers at each stage of the manufacturing process, as well as for end users of finished goods and services. This article outlines the evolution of SCEM, current trends, and provides some advice on positioning your organizations to take strategic advantage of SCEM.

November 1999
But Officer, I Have Excellent Contacts!
With Sam Ofshinsky, CGM Security Solutions, Somerset, NJ

A lady was pulled over for speeding and the police officer upon examining her license noted that she was required to wear corrective lenses while driving. He started to write out a ticket and the lady exclaimed in protest, "But officer, I have excellent contacts!" He promptly responded, "Listen, I don't care who you know, I'm giving you this ticket."

Very old joke, but what's the connection to environmental, health and safety? It is this: having excellent contacts is absolutely essential. Indeed, it may be the most important aspect of your career, yet it is often the element that is managed haphazardly, if at all. This article presents some guidance to building your own network of contacts.

October 1999
The Best Advice May Come with Attitude
With John Musser, Dow Chemical Company, Midland, MI

An EHS manager in a major chemical firm recently complemented one of my colleagues, "She tells us what we need to hear, not what we want to hear." She’s got attitude. If you surround yourself with people that tell you what you want to hear, you may be headed for trouble. If you can reliably predict their advice, whether or not you like it, you may also have a problem. If it takes them all day to get to the point on a sensitive subject, why do you want to spend the extra time?

Obtaining frank, cutting edge advice in today’s dynamic business climate represents one of the challenges to managing an EHS department. EHS managers are experts at finding sound technical advice and support. What is much more difficult is to obtain strategic advice that will address questions such as "How will the external world react to the proposed new product introduction?" and "Are there fundamental flaws in the company’s direction on this issue?" This column provides some suggestions on how you might obtain answers to the more complex issues you face in your job.

September 1999
Building the Case for EHS Training
With Robert Pojasek, Harvard School of Public Heath

Organizations under financial constraints usually cut the travel budget first. The training budget is often the next to be slashed. In some respects the two are interrelated, since travel is involved in many external and even internal, company sponsored training programs.

The ideal time to make a strong business case to support training is before the cuts come; a proactive rather than reactive approach. In this article we examine some of the strategies you can use to build a strong professional development program for you and your employees. Even if the budget is already at bare bones, the approach may be effective in maintaining or expanding current training programs.

August 1999
EH&S In Depth: Looking After the Bottom Line
With Paul King, PPG Industries, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Technical competency is only one dimension of an environmental professional. Success comes with effectively applying this knowledge to your work environment. The EHS Advisor is a new EM column that provides a wide range of tools and techniques to make you more proficient in your job. This column provides a monthly forum for environmental, health and safety (EHS) professionals to share lessons learned from their successes achieved and the challenges overcome.

In this first article the authors describe the need for this column in today’s rapidly changing work environment, provide the ground rules for the potentially controversial material that will appear from time to time, and ask for your feedback and contributions to future articles.


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