EHS Trends Now & Into the Future: The Experts Weigh In

2023 Trends - Ferris Wheel

It is always useful at the end of the calendar year to look back and consider where things are now, how we’ve progressed in the past year, and where improvements can be made in the new year. This can be the case for individuals, organizations, and even the EHS industry as a whole. 

Cority’s internal EHS&S experts have come together to provide a short review of some of the key trends we’ve seen within the industry, the main challenges clients and users face, and some of the biggest questions being asked as we move into 2023. 

In this article, we’ll be exploring the following main questions: 

  1. How are connected and integrated systems reframing EHS&S operations? 
  2. How can the EHS industry better utilize their data? 
  3. How much will increasing legislation impact the world of EHS moving forward? 
  4. How has the EHS industry adapted to changes in working environments? 
  5. Where do we go from here? 

How are connected and integrated systems reframing EHS&S operations?  

We see an increasing amount of EHS&S and operations data is being generated, but that same data is not always accessible for decision making. The global pandemic rapidly increased the adoption of EHS digital technology, and while many organizations purchased multiple solutions to help manage the environmental, health, safety, and sustainability needs, many were left with multiple disparate solutions that didn’t talk to each other.  Now, despite reports of a potential recession in the coming months, firms are still looking for ways to modernize, integrate, and implement potentially cost-saving technology solutions that facilitate the sharing of information across the organization.  

We have seen an increased interest in software integrations, which will be of critical interest over the next two years as the number of data sources increases and as organizations look to exchange information between those sources, so it is accessible for decision making and to ensure investments are delivering expected returns. We have also seen organizations looking to consolidate solutions, shift to a single enterprise system that enables disparate business units to share data, create reports in a timely manner, and streamline process management.  

Another related topic for those in charge of created connected systems is not that of technical integrations – but in connecting to workers, making EHS programs more relevant and personal to their users. 

Engagement was a huge theme with the EHS industry in 2022, and we anticipate that will continue. Partly derived from safety culture studies that suggest strong employee engagement is required for optimal safety performance, the drive for greater connection between systems is also an acknowledgement from organizations that due to growing operational footprints and resource constraints, they cannot rely solely on a management driven top-down compliance approach.  

Engagement drives program sustainability through active employee participation and ownership. Digital platforms play into this theme by providing the means to support and better drive that engagement.  

How can the EHS industry better utilize their data?  

Analytics is an essential topic in the market right now, and a place where we see a lot of innovation. In a recent Verdantix survey on EHS budgets, EHS analytics topped the list of technologies planned to be rolled out. Over 70% of respondents were either planning to implement EHS analytics, or already had. 

There are a few factors at play here; increasing data volumes, the rise of predictive analytics, and a growing recognition of the importance of data literacy. 

It’s no secret that EHS professionals are expected to work with larger and larger data volumes, generating more reports with more detail than ever. This will only increase as EHS continues to become digitized; the adoption of mobile technology, wearables, APIs and other integrations will see data volumes grow. Having more data provides valuable insights, but also means more data must be managed and analyzed. 

The growing movement towards predictive analytics shows that EHS teams are looking for data to create actionable recommendations. In order to be able to make sense of the data we have, and glean meaning from it, we must know how to interpret and work with it.  

While data is becoming more prevalent within companies and is used to make decisions, there are still many folks who don’t know how to navigate data and Business Intelligence tools, so companies are looking for tools that make it easy to interact with data. 

How much will increasing legislation impact the world of EHS moving forward?  

Across all areas of EHS&S we continually see evidence of governments increasing requirements and intending to take a harder line on compliance, requiring organizations to take action to ensure they stay on top of changing regulations and maintain compliance.  

We see a big impact to sustainability programs, with an increasing number of ESG disclosure rules announced or in effect within the last 12 months shaping firms’ ESG and sustainability commitments. In 2024, 49,000 EU firms will have to report on their environmental and social impacts under the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD). Similarly, the proposed SEC climate risk disclosure rules will likely impact around 6,500 publicly listed firms in the United States. These organizations will be required to report their Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions, with some organizations also required to include with their Scope 3 emissions.  

We also see increased requirements in other areas. For instance: to address the ongoing opioid crisis, new U.S. federal rules will take effect in 2023 that will restrict the ability of clinicians to prescribe opioids outside of an electronic system. To adapt to these changes, for example, Cority is investing in enhancements to the existing ePrescription integration to ensure customers can effortlessly comply with these new requirements when administering controlled substances to employees for relevant medical conditions. 

How has the EHS industry adapted to changes in working environments?  

We know from a number of recent surveys that a high proportion of workers either have the ability to work remotely or have considered shifting to hybrid or fully remote jobs in 2022. Anecdotally, many of our existing clients have hybrid work policies and have expressed interest in being able to better manage their ergonomics program to support workers regardless of their location.  

Organizations are increasingly recognizing the role that mental and emotional wellness plays in overall employee health, workplace safety, and sustainable business performance. During the past year we have seen it be a popular topic in the market, however there is still some uncertainty around which team in an organization owns this along with the budget. Additionally, there is a lot of concern around data privacy, considering the sensitivity of the information. However, research is suggesting 94% of EHS executives believe they will assume greater responsibility for mental health and wellbeing initiatives due to COVID-19.  

Hospitals and health systems have experienced staffing issues due to U.S. nursing schools failing to keep pace with the rate of nurses retiring and some healthcare providers leaving the profession citing high workload and stress levels. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) provides data that suggests that the country will need more than 200,000 new nurses each year until 2026 to fill new positions or replace retiring nurses.  As a result, healthcare organizations will need to think how they will fill the employment gap quickly, efficiently, and securely.  

One way we are seeing these issues being combatted is through the use of telehealth solutions, which enable health workers to work face-to-face with patients remotely. While the adoption of this technology increased due to necessity with the pandemic, the approach could help to provide flexibility and make remote work a possibility for some within the healthcare industry. 

Where do we go from here? 

The above is merely a teaser for a deeper discussion. If any of the above topics resonate with you – you may be interested in watching Cority’s webinar “Key Trends in EHS 2022: A Year in Review”. Cority’s partner Arcadis joins in to review some of the key trends within Safety, Health, Environment, Sustainability and Analytics – discuss how many organizations have overcome significant challenges, and what trends we expect to see carry over into 2023.