Published on: Mar 3, 2016
Transcripts - NAEM2015_Engagement_Report
©2015 NAEM - All rights reserved 1
EHS Success Depends on
Articles authored by:
Tony Shea, Director of Environmental Compliance; NRG Energy Inc.
Ryan McMullan, Manager of Sustainability, Environment and Safety; Toyota Motor Sales Inc.
Jenna Newcombe, Senior Engineer; Geosyntec Consultants Inc.
While there is general agreement that developing a workplace
culture to support environmental and safety performance is crucial,
effective tactics to build engagement can be difficult to articulate.
In these peer-authored articles, NAEM members reflect on their
experiences of building engagement at all levels of an organization.
©2015 NAEM - All rights reserved 2
Welcome to the first edition of NAEM’s leadership perspectives series,
a new format for NAEM members to share articles and case studies on
environment, health and safety and sustainability best practices. Like so
many others, this initiative began when a member approached NAEM with
the idea of creating a peer-curated publication to showcase some of the
solutions and lessons learned along the way.
For this first year, NAEM assembled a committee of emerging leaders from
among its membership and Affiliates Council, who collaborated in teams
to brainstorm topics, outline article ideas and edit one another’s work. The
two publications that emerged from this process reflect the perspective of
the actual practitioners who created them.
In this first issue, the authors share specific strategies you can use
to engage employees and build a supportive culture for EHS and
sustainability inside your companies. As you read through these articles, I
encourage you to jot down your questions, take note your
feedback and share your thoughts with the authors.
We also encourage you to come up with your own ideas for an article
you’d like to share with your fellow members. Since the beginning, NAEM
has been a community for collaborative problem-solving. We hope you’ll
use this as an opportunity to both learn as well as contribute to the
community of practice.
Carol Singer Neuvelt
The National Association for Environmental Management (NAEM) empowers corporate leaders
to advance environmental stewardship, create safe and healthy workplaces, and promote
global sustainability. As the largest professional community for EHS and sustainability
decision-makers, we provide peer-led educational conferences, benchmarking research and an
active network for sharing solutions to today’s corporate EHS and sustainability management
challenges. Visit NAEM online at www.naem.org.
©2015 NAEM - All rights reserved 3
About the Authors
Communications, Commitment and Teamwork: The Pillars
of Creating an Engaged Culture within NRG’s Operations
Tony Shea, Director of Environmental Compliance; NRG Energy Inc.
Toyota’s Green: Creating Middle Management Engagement
through an Environmental Action Plan
Ryan McMullan, Manager of Sustainability, Environment and Safety; Toyota Motor Sales Inc.
Your Environmental Management System is Only as Strong
as your Employee Commitment
Jenna Newcombe, Senior Engineer; Geosyntec Consultants Inc.
NRG’s environmental compliance program has
evolved over the years as the company continues
to find opportunities for improvement. Many
of these changes have focused on new ways of
engaging its workforce.
Much has been written about creating EHS
culture and engagement at the top levels of the
organization as well as the front lines. But the
crucial remaining link is middle management.
Employee engagement is critical during
the development of a new environmental
©2015 NAEM - All rights reserved 4
Director of Environmental Compliance; NRG Energy Inc.
Manager of Sustainability, Environment and Safety; Toyota Motor Sales Inc.
Jenna Newcombe, CHMM
Senior Engineer; Geosyntec Consultants Inc.
Tony Shea is the Director of Environmental Compliance at NRG Energy, Inc. Tony’s
group manages environmental compliance programs for NRG, focusing in particular
on its fleet of fossil-fueled and renewable power generation facilities. This includes
development and implementation of NRG’s environmental policies and procedures,
performance metrics, audits, etc. Tony has 20 years of experience in environmental
compliance and the power generation industry.
Prior to joining NRG in 2006, Tony managed environmental issues during the
development of power generation facilities around the world at ABB Energy Ventures
and worked as an environmental consultant with ENVIRON International Corporation.
Ryan McMullan leads several EHS and Sustainability programs in the Environmental,
HazMat, and Safety division of Corporate Responsibility at Toyota Motor Sales. As a
student of the Toyota Production System and adult education, he has been advancing
engagement in the operational environmental and safety missions of the company. In
addition to managing EHS compliance, he develops sustainability strategy for North
America, including recycling, energy conservation, greenhouse gas inventories, and
He earned his Master’s degree in Corporate Environmental Management from the
Bren School at UC Santa Barbara and his Bachelor’s degree from Rice University.
Jenna Newcombe is an environmental manager based in Massachusetts with over
20 years of varied and unique experience in nearly every aspect of environmental
management. She has worked for some of the largest property owners in the
Northeast and has a solid record of achievement in developing and implementing
sophisticated environmental programs. These include: leading ISO 14001
Environmental Management System initiatives and developing and delivering
professional training and compliance auditing.
Ms. Newcombe has an MBA from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a Bachelor’s
degree in Engineering from Lafayette College.
©2015 NAEM - All rights reserved 5
“I’m from Corporate and I’m here to help.” You’ve heard that in
jest before, right? While it may be true that corporate groups
(mine included) develop new programs and requirements for
operations, there can be real results when the plant employees
take ownership of implementation. I have found that as long
as we can explain why a new program makes sense and why
it will help support compliance, our employees are more than
willing to jump on board and make it happen.
As NRG’s Corporate Director of Environmental Compliance, I
develop programs, policies and initiatives to support improved
environmental compliance performance across the company.
I recognize, however, that regardless of the ideas and
programs that my group develops and champions, the real
implementation is done by our operations personnel. Their
support and awareness, therefore, is critical to our efforts.
Communications, Commitment and
Teamwork: The Pillars of Creating an
Engaged Culture within NRG’s Operations
by Tony Shea, Director of Environmental Compliance; NRG Energy Inc.
In 2007, we implemented our EKPI program to measure
environmental compliance performance at the plant level.
The bonus potential for every employee at the plant is
tied, in part, to that environmental performance. Because
the entire plant staff has skin in the game in terms of the
bonus payment, this has helped enforce the culture that
environmental compliance is everyone’s job, not just the job
of the environmental personnel.
More recently, we added fleet-wide and region-wide
performance metrics to the EKPI. Now our employees are
incentivized to not only perform well at their site but to help
out other NRG locations that may be working through an
NRG’s environmental compliance program has evolved over the years as the company continues to find
opportunities for improvement. Many of these changes have focused on new ways of engaging its workforce.
©2015 NAEM - All rights reserved 6
great input from them we found out that all we had to do
was ask. We asked for a team from each plant to spend
some time thinking about what environmental risks are
out there to encourage them to think through the ‘what if’
scenarios. This has now become a routine process at each
of our plant sites through which we continue to learn and
continue to improve.
In an effort to capitalize on the knowledge available at the
plants, we asked for volunteers to support our development
of company-wide environmental initiatives. This group
includes environmental specialists and engineers from
the plants. They help review data, and, based on their
experiences at their plants, they help identify meaningful
and appropriate programs and deadlines that we can
roll-out across the fleet. In addition to providing this group
with another leadership opportunity, the new programs
can be more readily accepted elsewhere because plant
representatives were involved.
In summary, we use these various programs to:
• Establish clear measures of success and tie it to
• Cascade the policy through operations rather than
just from the environmental group
• Give people the tools they need to be successful
• Ask operations to identify and address risks
• Ask for volunteers to help set the direction of
Thanks in large part to a more engaged workforce, we
have been able to demonstrate significant performance
improvement in recent years. Here’s a snapshot of what
NRG Environmental KPI Incidents
% of baseline (lower is better)
Another pillar of our program at NRG is our long-standing
Environmental Policy & Procedures Manual that requires
compliance with all environmental laws. It’s one thing to
have a policy from the environmental group requiring
compliance; it’s another to have a similar message relayed
across all of operations from operations management.
In 2012, our head of Plant Operations authored a new
‘Environment-Over-Production’ policy, which he shared
through a required computer-based-training program for all
operations employees. Speaking to all operations staff, he
made it clear that compliance is not just our policy, but it’s a
priority. Operators were then empowered to make the right
choices to maintain environmental compliance, knowing
they would be supported by their management and the
Once our plant employees knew what was expected, we
wanted to make sure they always knew the requirements.
After all, decisions often need to be made in the middle of
the night or during a weekend or holiday – not just when the
Environmental Compliance Specialist is on site. To provide
that guidance, we worked with every site to develop what
we call an ‘Environmental Operator Box,’ a site-specific table
listing all the environmental requirements and permit limits
that an operator would need to know. This resource, which
is posted in the Control Room, has helped to set our plant
employees up for success.
Environmental Risk Review
Who would know best what risks might exist at one of our
sites? Me or my team? No way. Plant Operations leadership?
Nope. It’s the people at that site, who are out in the field
every day. They are a wealth of knowledge and to get some
©2015 NAEM - All rights reserved 7
Toyota’s Green: Creating Middle
Management Engagement through an
Environmental Action Plan
by Ryan McMullan, Manager of Sustainability, Environment and Safety; Toyota Motor Sales Inc.
The pressures on middle managers are to meet goals and
targets relevant to the core business, so when they are
engaged on other topics, it often leaves them wondering why
they’re being asked to do what looks like another “coffee-
mug-of-the-month program”. There are several methods to
get program compliance from these managers, including
performance reviews, compensation, and accountability to
their leaders. But to truly achieve engagement requires a
First it would be helpful to offer a working definition of
engagement relevant to this approach (there are many ways
to define engagement after all). For these purposes I will
define engagement as when a coworker brings ideas to you
as an environmental change agent, rather than just being
receptive to your ideas. Here’s a good example of this in
action from my very first days with the company when I was
still a graduate student:
My first experience with Toyota was as a summer
intern during my graduate degree program. My
manager was going out on maternity leave three days
after I started and one of the key projects she assigned
was the Toyota Environmental Action Plan. This
task required going to senior managers throughout
the company, asking them for a status on previous
year’s targets and requesting they set new targets for
the current year. How was I, the new intern, going
to wrangle busy senior managers and get them to
commit? Taking a deep breath I picked up the phone
and called the first senior manager on the list.
Much has been written about creating EHS culture and engagement at the top levels of the organization as
well as the front lines. But the crucial remaining link is middle management.
©2015 NAEM - All rights reserved 8
During our short conversation he gave me the results
of the previous year – target completed. When asked
for the next target I got something like “Study the
possibility of creating a plan to evaluate (some new
operational technology).” I faithfully recorded it, but felt
like it wasn’t much of a target, so I reviewed it with the
head of our department. “Isn’t there anything we can
do to make them set a real target?” I asked with the
zeal of youth. “Sure,” he replied. “We could have our
VP talk to their VP. She could make their non-target
very uncomfortable for them. And that would work, for
this year.” He pulled out an A3 document, carefully
folded in the Toyota way, “But this is a five year plan
and after that we’ll do another five year plan. We need
them to take this seriously, but also to get comfortable
with the subject – we’re in it for the long haul. Give
them a call back and ask if we could kaizen (improve)
their target. Start by asking them what they do – it’ll
be a good opportunity to learn the business.”
The method used at Toyota Motor Sales for building
environmental engagement among middle management is
the Five Year Environmental Action Plan. This is a fixed,
five year plan which requires the creation of targets in
all departments that have some environmental impact or
opportunity. For instance, the company is currently in its
FY12-16 five year plan, which contains 126 targets from
groups around the company, covering activities ranging
from introduction of environmental products (hybrid and
advanced tech vehicles, remanufactured parts, etc.) to
the use of environmentally preferable materials (recycled-
content paper, returnable packaging, etc.) to outreach goals
(training, dealerships, philanthropy, partnerships, etc.).
Plan The Right Plan
The act of target setting does not, in itself, build engagement.
Toyota’s Environmental Action Plan has five crucial attributes
that enable proper deployment to build engagement:
1. Top Management Support: The top management of the
company (up to the global parent company) puts this
forward as a requirement (not optional).
2. Themes: The top management also picks specific
themes, such as recycling-based society, low-carbon
society, awareness and outreach to provide focus and
3. Open-ended Targets: Targets are not prescribed.
Rather, guidance is issued and starting places are
offered, but ultimately the managers of each group set
both the format and performance level of targets.
4. OK to Fail: Targets are encouraged to be challenging
and they need not have a planned method for
achievement when set. If a target is not met, but
progress and learning has been displayed toward it,
then there is no punishment or bad reflection on the
manager. (Targets that are outright ignored, however,
have negative consequences.).
5. Repeated: When managers realize that this activity
is not going away and you will talk with them about
progress at least once a year, they realize they can’t
“ignore it and hope it goes away”.
These five attributes do not ensure that middle managers
will start bringing you ideas (i.e. being engaged, willing
partners) – they just hold open the possibility. Actual
engagement requires careful deployment of the action plan
by the environmental team.
©2015 NAEM - All rights reserved 9
Engagement Is The Goal (at first)
Before delving into this, it’s important to put yourself in
the shoes of a typical middle manager faced with the idea
of setting environmental targets in what may be perceived
as unrelated business areas. Typically, they do not have
any particular environmental expertise, nor do they have
experience with where to start outlining environmental
metrics and targets. They may not even know what’s possible
for environmental improvement within their activity. If
approached with an authoritative approach the environmental
leadership can set themselves up as the adversary trying to
distract the manager from their core business.
Instead, think about this target-setting interaction as a
coaching opportunity. It gives you an opportunity to 1)
understand the manager’s business activity, and 2) educate
the manager on ways they can contribute to the company’s
environmental performance. Share the themes defined by
top management to give them more specific ideas (more
than just “environmental”). It’s important to not jump to
targets just yet; just illustrate the environmental impacts and
opportunities that are relevant to their business activity.
To create a comfortable space for the manager to engage with
environmental topics, it’s important to bring three approaches
to the discussion:
Approach 1: Play Teeball. After coaching the manager on
the environmental aspects of their business activity, have a
range of ready-made, “just swing at it” targets handy they can
adopt, in case they don’t know where to start. They may not
take them, but it helps illustrate some possibilities for their
Approach 2: Play Slow Pitch Softball. Many managers,
when faced with new targets, will try to offer up non-targets
(“Consider a plan to prepare a study to reduce X, where
feasible”). While it is important to work with them to make
the target meaningful, it is important to lob slow, easy
opportunities and not force them into targets that are too
uncomfortable, too soon.
Approach 3: Play the Long Game. When negotiating a
given target, do so with the long-term goal of engagement as
the first priority. If you have to sacrifice the outcome of the
current target to build long-term engagement (even for all five
years of a first five year plan) by allowing a lightweight target,
do so. This will afford the manager time to get comfortable
with the topic, learn, and eventually bring their own spin on it
using their knowledge of their business activity.
Specifically, do not play hardball. While you may be able
to negotiate a better performance outcome of a given target
in the short term, you have sacrificed the opportunity to
build engagement and often put yourself in the position
of facilitating the goal (costing you time), rather than the
manager taking ownership and learning.
Help Them Help You
Finally, it’s important to address the ‘What’s in it for me?’ If
you can help managers meet their professional goals while
helping you, you become an ally, rather than a distraction.
Here are three ways to provide personal value from engaging
with environmental topics:
Demonstrate Leadership: If they do take on
challenging or visionary environmental targets, be sure
to feature them to their own management. Describe
their achievement in terms of general business
attributes such as ‘thought leadership’, ‘business insight’,
and ‘building company reputation’. These are terms
managers value and understand, and can apply to
non-environmental areas), rather environmental terms
like ‘reduced impact’, ‘pollution avoidance’, or ‘reduced
Feature Successes: When they do succeed on targets,
try to feature those accomplishments to others, both
internally and externally. Common methods include
internal company newsletters and announcements,
external awards, the public environmental report,
and news releases. Be sure to send managers a note
when they are featured so they know their efforts are
appreciated and impactful (and they’re getting some
Professional Development: Good managers are always
looking for opportunities for their team members to
gain professional development experiences. By framing
the action plan target as a professional development
opportunity you put the manager in the position of
being a nurturing leader, while delegating the project to
someone who’s more likely to have a personal passion
for environmental issues.
©2015 NAEM - All rights reserved 10
Build It and They Will Come
To demonstrate the effectiveness of this approach, the
number of targets in each of our Five Year Plans has
Some of the growth is due to new business units or added
initiatives, but much of this growth is due to new ideas
coming from returning managers. As they become more
comfortable with the process, they bring their own ideas
to the table. And with these return managers having more
ownership and self-sufficiency, it frees up time for the
environmental team to expand to new business units or
By structuring the action plan to maximize flexibility,
deploying it in a way that promotes learning and ownership,
and returning direct benefits to the manager, you are much
more likely to build true engagement among the middle
management of your company. And your job becomes
much easier when you don’t have to come up with all the
©2015 NAEM - All rights reserved 11
Your Environmental Management System is
Only as Strong as your Employee Commitment
by Jenna Newcombe, Senior Engineer; Geosyntec Consultants Inc.
Fifteen years ago, before the concept of employee
engagement was fully developed and formal programs were
being developed, I was two months into a brand new job
and tasked with leading a team of employees to develop a
pilot ISO14001 environmental management system (EMS)
for one facility within the organization. This was daunting
for several reasons, but the most critical decision was to find
people to help. During the development of an EMS forming a
team of “stakeholders” is one of the first steps in the process.
The purpose of this is to have employees from different
parts of the organization giving their input into the process
to ensure that all aspects of the operations that could impact
the environment are considered. Employee engagement and
involvement are critical in the development of an EMS.
In this instance we didn’t have a plan; we just knew we
needed people. There were no metrics or anything for us to
benchmark against. The process worked and was followed
for three additional facilities. Employee engagement has
become more formalized since we worked through our
program; ours was one of trying and failing and trying again.
It is experiences like this that have helped to frame some of
the employee engagement programs that are currently being
We pulled together a group of stakeholders: facility
management, purchasing, government affairs, environmental
management, safety, and facility maintenance. For most
of the group, participation had been mandated by their
supervisor because their input was critical for creating a
system that would be successful. For departments such as
environmental management and safety it was clear how their
every day job related to the system. The facility where we
were implementing the system was adjacent to a very active
Employee engagement is critical during the development of a new environmental management system.
©2015 NAEM - All rights reserved 12
community so the government affairs representative was an
active participant from the start of the process; they needed
to able to communicate the program back to the citizens.
While purchasing was important, their role was more
important later in the process as we developed programs and
procedures to be implemented, such as standard purchasing
procedures for “greener” products.
The biggest challenge was getting the maintenance staff
involved in the process. Their environmental responsibilities
were ad-hoc; their role was maintenance, keeping the
grounds and buildings maintained, servicing vehicles and
clearing snow in the winter. We needed their involvement
during the development because it was going to be their
system to implement and to maintain. The role of the
environmental group was to act as a consultant of sorts to
each of the facilities. The environmental group assisted with
compliance planning and permitting, but the day-to-day
operations and activities were the responsibility of the facility
personnel. For most of the maintenance staff, environmental
compliance or going above that and becoming involved in a
voluntary program, such as ISO14001, was out of their realm.
The biggest challenge on the team came from the
maintenance foreman, a 25-year career employee. A typical
day for the foreman was to confirm that the equipment used
for grounds maintenance, such as lawnmowers and other
vehicles, was running properly, to ensure that the building
was kept in good condition, and to drive around the property
to collect any trash or debris. Once a month the stormwater
outfalls were visually inspected; the purpose of this was to
check a box on a list of items that were to be completed. The
development of an EMS would give these tasks a purpose in
regards to environmental compliance and management.
The maintenance foreman spent the first few monthly
meetings sitting by the window away from the group
obviously disengaged. Admittedly the first few meetings
were not that exciting; we were discussing the process
and the goal of developing an EMS. For someone that just
wanted to get on with their “real” job, it was probably very
boring. As the manager of the program, I noticed the lack of
engagement and needed to figure out how to get the entire
team involved in the process because I knew our program
would not be successful otherwise. Food was provided to
incentivize people to attend the meetings. People attended
and ate, but contributions and engagement still lacked.
Find out what matters most
As we moved into developing a list of what activities
occurred at the facility and how those could impact the
environment, the group started to become more interested.
Items on the list included the daily tasks that they conducted,
like changing fluid in vehicles, mowing the lawn, painting,
and even inspecting the stormwater outfalls. The activities
could have an impact on the environment and we were
putting a framework around what that was. In addition, we
were giving the team an opportunity to create a program and
a process around their existing jobs and how those could be
performed more efficiently and effectively. When we started
asking for input about what their job entailed, engagement
Altogether the EMS development process took about 14
months. During this time, we created a list of about 400
aspects and most of them were relevant to work performed
by the maintenance group at the facility, this fact made the
made their input essential to the process. Some of those that
were deemed to be significant included:
• Fuel usage;
• Lawn mower emissions;
• Stormwater management;
• Solid waste disposal;
• Hazardous waste disposal;
• Water usage; and
• Building energy usage.
©2015 NAEM - All rights reserved 13©2015 NAEM - All rights reserved
Finally the foreman became interested! He knew that in
order to frame the programs that would be his responsibility
he needed to provide input. The goal was not to change
how they conducted all of their activities but to consciously
think about how those activities could or were impacting the
In the middle of our audit he asked the auditor to come into
his office with him for his interview, I was not allowed to
sit in. This was not typical and I was very nervous that we
were not going to be certified. They were in their one-on-
one meeting for about half hour. Once they were done,
the foreman said he was leaving for the day. The day was
not over and nor was our audit. At the end of the day, the
auditor told us, that yes, we would be certified. He also told
us that the foreman had asked him at the beginning of the
day if we would be certified, he said that he needed to leave
early and needed to know before he left.
His actions were at first self-serving, trying to save his
group from being saddled with extra tasks and also to keep
control of what they were required to do. By the day of
our certification audit his interest and buy-in was clearly
demonstrated. For the eight years following our initial
certification, until his retirement and my departure from
that job, he was fully engaged. He took an active role in the
analysis of the program and the EMS and wanted to make it
This engagement process was not a corporate strategy or
program that we had assessed and analyzed, it happened
organically by “management” demonstrating that the
employees input really did matter. Giving people an
opportunity to participate in building a system proved to be a
successful. Ultimately, the development of the EMS:
• Integrated environmental into the organization;
• Decreased environmental violations; and
• Increased continual improvement of environmental
But for the employees it showed them that they do have a
vital role in the process and that their input and participation
helped to create a successful program.
©2015 NAEM - All rights reserved 14
NAEM would like to thank the contributions of the peer editorial committee who helped make this publication possible:
Environmental Data Manager
Sustainability Practice Lead
Senior Consultant Antea Group
Environmental, HazMat, & Safety Programs Administrator
EHS Program Analytics Manager
GE Corporate General Electric
greeNG Sustainability Analyst
Northrup Grumman Corp
Director of Environmental Compliance
About this Series
NAEM’s new Leadership Perspectives series provides peer-curated and peer-authored articles and case studies on best practices in
environment, health and safety, and sustainability management. If you have an idea for this series and would like to join a team
of authors, please contact Elizabeth Ryan at firstname.lastname@example.org.