EHS Leadership—Only as Good as the Team Around Us


“If you’re the smartest person in the room, you are in the wrong room.” Though probably originally coined by theoretical physicist, Richard Feynman, this quote has had many variations and been attributed to many leaders over the years. Regardless of the origin, the sentiment remains the same and the message has never been more true for leadership positions across industries. For the rapidly evolving and increasing scope of leadership roles in environmental, health,and safety (EHS) teams across the business landscape, the demanding practice behind the platitude may mean the difference between success and failure in meeting the moment, reaching sustainability goals, and preparing businesses for what is ahead.  

Between the combined stressors of EU and SEC driven changes in regulatory requirements and the inescapable press of climate change—expectations for what EHS teams can/must do have never been so in focus. With that, leadership roles in EHS have gained a clearer path to stakeholder decision making, and in many cases, the budgetary weight to implement meaningful changes within organizations. Often, the missing component in evolving EHS teams comes down to the targeted expertise to get it done.  

As Richard Feynman and so many others have stated before, the key to growth, expansion, efficiency, and innovation is to surround yourself with people that know more than you do. A good leader in any field—but particularly in large scale and evolving disciplines like EHS that touch on hard sciences, engineering, targeted technology, and operational efficiencies—needs to be able to rely on those around them to know, do, and recognize all the things that they can’t.  

EHS leaders need to be able to see the big picture and communicate with all the key players throughout an organization, while also understanding the needs and demands of customers and the public face of sustainability practices. Without the input, perspective, and expertise of those around them to inform their understanding of all factors that touch upon ESG concerns, the time and focus demands of the job will soon become untenable.           

It’s okay, even vital, to admit that we don’t have all the answers.  What is even worse than being the smartest person in the room, is believing you are and putting up blinders to a wider perspective. EHS teams need to be empowered to handle the shifting roles of the job and feel free to raise concerns and insights as they arise. Meeting sustainability goals requires real-time decision making and adjustments in systems that need to be driven by a sense of shared values and a clearly defined culture of openness to creative solutions. Hiring expert EHS professionals who can fill the knowledge gaps in leadership and compliment the other employees in the team is required. Sometimes, the first hurdle is properly identifying which gaps need to be filled.  

Partnering with outside EHS advisors to bring targeted expertise to the implementation of leadership initiatives, technology systems, and operational efficiencies can jumpstart an EHS team’s understanding of, and engagement with, change. A project-based or ongoing partnership can help to streamline systems, define a strategic roadmap for growth, and allow team members to optimize leadership efforts for the expanding scope of the job, while promoting strategic alignment with overall business goals.  

For the demands of EHS teams ahead, leaders don’t need to be the smartest person in the room—just the one that sees the big picture beyond the room and knows the right people to call when the walls, floor, and ceiling need to be knocked down and expanded in every direction.  

Whether your organization needs to build a centralized data management system, bring in targeted advisors for leadership training, or design a strategic roadmap to help align EHS with overall business goals, CAPACCIO is the partner that specializes in the implementation of the tools and initiatives that empower EHS leadership for success.