Like many attendees, I hadn’t travelled much since COVID started making its way around the globe in early 2020. So, getting back into air travel felt a bit like riding a bike again after a long winter break as a kid. A bit wobbly and with some new perspective due to personal growth, shifted expectations, and seeing first-hand the scale of change stemming from a collection of digitization pivots and shifts stemming from Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS) initiatives impacting the public sphere.
Case in point: the magazines in airplane seatbacks are now treated with microbial processes, the cocktail napkins the airlines handout with pretzels boldly proclaim net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions goals, planes fly with sustainable aviation fuel, and power strips in hotels now have default USBs and master controls toggled on by key cards. The future is now and Cority Connect ’22 gave us a front-row seat.
Admittedly, for many, just reconnecting in person was a highlight of the event. Hugs, smiles, and fist/ elbow bumps all served as sparks of joy for conference attendees and Cority staff. It was also an opportunity to dust off our conference-best attire, which might not have made it off the hangers in 2 years…and might have led to some overpacking. Anyone else’s Lyft driver comment, “Oh, this bag is heavy?!?” Suffice to say, me, myself, and my heavy bag eventually made it to the beautiful Intercontinental Hotel overlooking the San Diego waterfront.
Let’s Get This (EHS) Show on the Road
Getting settled into the event, little niceties started popping up, making the experience special and memorable. From the custom hotel keycards connecting strangers in the elevator to brightly colored SWAG bags to handy-dandy agendas on the back of attendee badges, the CoriCon ’22 tribe came together for a magical couple of days.
The morning after the poolside and rooftop(!) Welcome Reception brought lots of excitement and set the stage for the supporting themes of the conference: digitization, employee engagement, and the impactful role EHS has in supporting Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG) and sustainability programs across the globe.
The State of Cority
The Day 1 General Session agenda was kicked off by a “State of Cority” address from CEO, Mark Wallace, in which he doubled down on the importance of ESG and provided insights into Cority’s focus areas over the coming year such as hiring, engagement, and delivering new programs and products. He equipped the audience with a historical and customer-focused narrative reinforcing the breadth and depth of not only Cority’s adoption by organizations far and wide but also the impact of EHS programs by citing early and continued software implementation by the United Nations and an expansive and impactful safety program with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). Wallace also gave his audience a look inside Cority’s commitment to “eating its own cooking” by adding Sustainability as one of its core values as an employee-led initiative stemming from the 2021 formation of its Sustainability Committee.
The Shift from Reactive to Proactive: A Perspective from the Golden Arches
Following Cority’s opening address, the highly anticipated keynote from McDonald’s former VP of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Sustainability, Bob Langert, took center stage. He spoke of the shift from shareholder value to stakeholder value and reminded the audience of the past: reactive on progress, non-existence of CSR Officers, and newly found corporate reckoning for, as an example, policies allowing child labor in sweatshops to produce sneakers and soccer balls. In contrast, today’s Fortune 500 are proactive on progress, battle their risk-averse legal counsel to enact future-preserving changes to policy and operations, and ALL have a dedicated CSR Officer supported by a hefty headcount.
Through a telling tale of the journey to update the classic polystyrene clamshell burger packaging to something more sustainable (which took 20+ years to accomplish), Langert provided the audience with real-life insight into 7 distinct trends shaping the EHS and ESG coalescence we see today. Of particular interest, was Langert’s telling of a partnership with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) to crack the clamshell kerfuffle facing the Golden Arches. It was in their most ardent critics that a productive and dedicated approach to finding a solution was found. Other notable trends included:
- The concept of radical transparency (e.g. everybody can access “all the things” these days), which is forcing businesses to address their most uncomfortable truths
- The focus on organizations’ responsibility for ALL aspects of their supply chain through life cycle analysis (LCA) and Scope 1, 2, and 3 reporting requirements
- The fact that investors are asking for more ESG, citing the 3300-word letter from BlackRock’s CEO, Larry Fink in which he writes, “Stakeholder capitalism is not about politics. It is not a social or ideological agenda. It is not “woke.” It is capitalism…”
It was such a pleasure to hear stories from inside the trenches and we are sure Langert inspired quite a few attendees to purchase his 2019 book, “The Battle To Do Good: Inside McDonald’s Sustainability Journey” to get more details about all the enticing corporate trends he spoke of during his session.
What’s Employee Engagement Got to Do with EHS?
Moving the day of general sessions along, Cority’s own safety subject matter expert, Sean Baldry, doubled down on the importance of engaging employees within EHS and set up the next speaker to connect the conference’s themes with personal reflection and a bit of fun. Baldry inspired the crowd to think about the impact engagement can have en masse with an example from 1941 when the entirety of the US workforce and population was engaged to feed and equip its army in WWII. While today’s push for engagement is somewhat different, the challenges – climate change, supply of raw materials, health & safety – are just as dire and will require the same level of engagement from our society. Fortunately, the last 2 years have been good practice for mobilizing the workforce and society to meet large challenges.
While we know employee engagement is crucial to successfully meeting EHS goals, 97% of firms identify it as a high to moderate priority, the statistics show a broad lackluster response as 68% of firms report that employee engagement is actually moderate to low. Why is this the case? Potential answers include a focus on the wrong things to drive engagement and barriers in business. To help solve this issue, Baldry highlighted the concepts of Purpose, Mastery, and Autonomy espoused by Daniel Pink in his book, “Drive.” While unpacking what these mean and how to apply them to EHS, which you can dive deeper into via our blog or eBook dedicated to the subject, Baldry created a perfect segue to the last keynote before lunch.
Yes, all of this happened BEFORE lunch on Day 1!
Engagement By Way of Peacock Feathers & Juggling
400+ EHS professionals are gathered in person for likely their first conference in two years.
Their minds are open, they’re thinking deeply about EHS, if they and their colleagues are truly engaged at work and wondering how ESG and sustainability initiatives connect to their roles.
They are anticipating the upcoming lunch and possibility contemplating the probability of some delicious McDonald’s French Fries on the menu.
And…there’s bunches of peacock feathers mysteriously placed at the head of each row of seats in the grand ballroom, which nobody seems too worried about…
That’s when Dan Thurmon took the stage.
World-renowned and Hall of Fame speaker, Dan Thurmon captivated the audience from the beginning and not just because he was doing somersaults on stage. He immediately tied into the theme of employee engagement with his own mantra centered around the idea that “willingness, ability, and capacity is key to showing up and being engaged”. He set the record straight on the tightly held belief that life is about achieving balance. “Wrong”, he told us. “Life”, he said, “is about up to this moment. Balance isn’t a thing you ever get, it is what you do”.
Through a trip around the ballroom on his unicycle and juggling demonstrations, he helped show the audience that chaos is all about patterns. That small, sometimes imperceptible changes can have a big impact but when seen as what they are, patterns, seemingly chaotic change can actually be harnessed into natural and healthy progress.
He had us pick up those peacock feathers and try balancing them on our hands. Yes, 400+ adults were wobbling around the room, attempting to stave off the chaos of bumping into each other and feathers falling everywhere. Together, we learned to lean into challenges to keep things upright. That when someone asks, “do you want to learn?” we should remember to hear, “you can do this”. That the 5 spheres of life – work, relationship, interests, spirit, and health are interconnected. But when viewed as separate, the result is exhaustion from keeping all the balls in the air.
It’s the same with juggling. Keeping those spheres in the air is about learning the pattern, leaning in, and hearing “you can do this”. He brought a daring audience member on stage and proved to us that exact point as they successfully learned to juggle 3 balls together in less than 5 minutes. And, as we broke for lunch on Day 1, he left us with the following thought, “If you limit yourself to what’s comfortable, you deny yourself what’s possible”.
Off to the Races
Inspired, prepped for the themes to come, and ready to dig into the nitty gritty of customer-inspired best practices, road maps, and more, the attendees of Cority Connect ‘22 ascended into the partner hallway and into lunch on Day 1. Full and happy, the returning crowd learned about Cority’s roadmap for the coming year from Cority’s CTO, Atish Ghosh, with highlights around cloud modernization and foundation reinforcements.
They heard from Lacie Wournell, Associate VP of Digital EHS&S at Arcadis, who reminded the crowd that EHS is the heartbeat of companies and that professionals in these fields make a HUGE impact and difference every day. And, the virtual hug she gave to the crowd definitely caused some eyes to water and hearts to fill. Through key insights, she placed customer and employee buy-in as a top priority while connecting this to an opportunity to engage with C-Suites focused on radical change who are ready to hear from their people. Moreover, that data is dirty, magical, and powerful. It can be harnessed through the next wave of digitization and empower the ongoing drive to learn.
After a delightful Customer Q&A Panel, Day 1 General Sessions ended with the Empower Better Awards — given to customers with outstanding Cority software implementation programs over the previous year. Congratulations to Rio Tinto, Koch Industries, Argonne National Laboratory, MD Anderson Cancer Center, and Tucson Electric Power Company!
And, like that, Day 1 was all wrapped up and we were off to a fun rooftop happy hour.
It Was a Zoo
Just kidding! The rest of the conference was jam-packed with topical breakout sessions — focused on Cloud-specific enhancements and best practices, lessons from customers, and upcoming product releases — networking opportunities, and an unforgettable night at … the San Diego Zoo.
And just like that, our three-day user conference came to an end, and it was time to begin our journey back home. It was incredible to see smiling faces in person, to hear great things from customers about Cority’s products (such as “It’s great, it’s like a box of Legos!”), and to meet and mingle with amazing EHS folks who not only make up the Cority tribe but literally keep billions of people across the globe safe and healthy while also serving as stewards of our environment.
We look forward to seeing you all next year!