In February 2018, KEY’s International Facility Management (FM) team convened to share learnings on how to build a strong Environmental Health and Safety Culture in organisations and countries new to the concept.

Warning sign saying 'safety is KEY', highlighting the importance of a strong environmental health and safety culture in emerging markets

Informed by considerable experience at facilitating Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) culture change for multinationals across emerging markets, the conversation produced 10 Top Tips which may assist anybody facing similar challenges:

1. Communicate EHS as a principle, not a task-to-do.  It is essential to keep reinforcing the idea that EHS is about safeguarding life and health, not just corporate requirement and procedure.


Emergency evacuation drill in an emerging market office, helping to promote EHS awareness and ownership


2. Always lead by example.  FM’s should be seen to integrate the EHS principle into all relevant considerations and decisions, not only when required.  Truly walking-the-walk is often the most effective way to educate the uninitiated.

3. Hand-pick a local team that understands EHS’s importance.  Your most committed champions of Environmental Health and Safety Culture change are frequently those who have been affected by poor EHS, personally or via someone close to them.

4. Appoint an EHS coordinator with good communication skills.  To maintain EHS focus across a multinational, you need a strong-minded specialist adept at managing different perspectives, cultures and languages.

5. Routinely promote EHS awareness.  Seek ways to braid EHS into the day-to-day life of the organisation.  Tactics can include running regular emergency drills or presenting brief EHS progress reports before every client meeting.


Emergency EHS drill in an emerging market, helping to promote environmental health and safety culture change


6. Nurture EHS as a shared responsibility.  Conduct activities which build perception that EHS isn’t someone else’s job, but about everyone working together for the common good.  Monthly staff workshops for EHS education and discussion have proven effective at this.

7. Cultivate local autonomy for EHS problem-solving.  Effective Environmental Health and Safety Culture change is about coaching, not management. For example, when conducting an EHS site audit, leave it to the local team to propose solutions to the snag list.  The process of reviewing details of issues and regulatory environment has proved effective at promoting local self-education, ownership and responsibility.


Environmental health and safety equipment installed in an office in an emerging market


8. Leverage FM Technology.  Cloud-based FM technologies can transform your control, visibility and systemisation of EHS activities across a complex portfolio.  They also improve EHS awareness at all levels of the organisation by enabling historical and real time performance tracking.

9. Ensure the client has your back.  As a rule, KEY always favours the carrot over the stick.  Nevertheless, a clear mandate and commitment to consequences from Upper Management and Human Resources often helps to motivate local parties to action.

10. Patience and Persistence.  Don’t get discouraged by your rate of progress or setbacks.  A new culture isn’t built in a day, but stick with our Top Tips and you’ll get there soon enough.


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