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In 2022, we saw the turbulence in the economy impact EHS budgets a bit, regulatory expectations rise around recordkeeping, and more emerging contaminants creep up on companies. We tackled some of these topics in a recent webinar and looked ahead to 2023 to help the EHS community prepare for the latest trends. A recap of the webinar is below!

What is the impact of the economy on in-house EHS teams?

We have seen, on average, 10-15% budget cuts, and with the current high unemployment rate, teams are understaffed, which means double the workload per person. The impact of the economy has EHS teams needing to figure out how to do more with less, as they are not getting the budget or team they hoped for or planned for. Some of that is the tightening of the economy and corresponding across-the-board budget cuts by companies, but also, we are seeing a shift in budgets to invest in the ESG space. This also means thinking about dollars being allocated to data collection for sustainability and ESG reporting due to budgetary pressures.

What stands out as a top environmental news story of 2022?

One of the really interesting and frankly frightening developments in 2022,  is the courts have been holding individuals responsible for environmental violations. Typically, EHS managers, plant managers, and executives all assumed that the company would be held liable, not them. We heard in our Annual Summit about a case where an environmental coordinator was liable for criminal charges instead of going after the company. This case was related to the adequacy of training around chemical hazards. For folks in EHS, you know how tough it is to get staff to training, let alone for them to be engaged. That’s a pretty scary development if you are in EHS and don’t have the complete budget authority or the ability to mandate training, you could then be held liable for the lack of an environmental program.

The other intriguing case was where an executive that went to jail for 36 months for submitting hundreds of false monitoring reports. The Department of Justice is going after people more than ever for this kind of mistake in reporting. This is scary because, going back to the question of the struggle with the economy, if you are being asked to do more with less budget and you may not have as much power to get what you need. EHS teams need to pay more attention to training, record keeping, inspections, and data reporting. 

What trends should EHS folks be paying attention to going into 2023?

A top area EHS leaders should be tracking is the availability and visibility of data. For example, the Inflation Reduction Act put in significant funding for public access to data with tools like the EPA’s EJS, In addition, the funding to third-party environmental groups for monitoring and data collection means companies need to be thinking about the environmental data that is out there in the public’s eye. Having an internal environmental data collection, monitoring, and analysis strategy will be key to maintaining a defensive and occasionally offensive legal and risk mitigation posture in 2023.

Another area we are tracking is the emerging contaminants such as 6ppd-quinone and PFAS. We all have been inundated with PFAS info at conferences and in the news, but likely this is just the start of the issue and costs. We also see the emergence of 6PPD-Quinone from Washington Coho Salmon research and the likely inclusion in industrial stormwater permits as something companies should be paying attention to due to the prevalence in tires.

The third place we recommend EHS leaders focus attention on in 2023 is the shifting of budgets to ESG sustainability reporting. For savvy folks out there, they are looking at a holistic approach to environmental data collection, monitoring, analysis and reporting. That is because the environmental data collected for compliance, such as waste, air emissions, and water discharges and use, is also likely the same underlying data for ESG and sustainability reporting. We are tracking which companies and environmental leaders are thinking about and implementing cost-effective environmental data strategies in 2023 and how that will set up their companies for success under reduced budgets and higher scrutiny from customers, SEC, and shareholders

What do you think is the riskiest environmental area in 2023 for companies, water versus air?

Historically speaking,  air has always been tougher with NOVs, baghouse inspections, not filing a reporting, etc. In 2023 we predict greenhouse gas reporting will become more critical for not only public companies producing ESG or sustainability metrics and reports but also seeing it trickle down to private companies.

However, we may be undervaluing the risk of water from a pollution and resource standpoint. Questions come up like, are we going to run out of water? Can we recycle water? It also thought that with more focus on water in the future, you can’t get away with false reporting as we did in the past, and fines will be as hefty as $60,000 a day.

For more information on the top ask questions of 2022 & predictions for 2023, watch our on-demand webinar!

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