5 Big Myths About EHS Service Partnerships

Are you an environmental, health, and safety (EHS) manager considering a services partnership to improve operations—but worry about the potential downsides of such collaboration?

If so, I’d like to point out that, too often, mistaken or outdated assumptions about securing EHS services prevent organizations from successful partnering. This is unfortunate, because we’re in a time of enormous partnering potential—as long as it’s done with the right EHS vendor.

The issue of partnership has never been more pertinent: EHS services is a huge and hot industry. The overall United States waste management market alone was worth $342 million in 2023—and is expected to grow at an annual compound rate of 5.2% from now until 2030.

Currently, heavy regulatory pressure and increasing technical requirements are making day-to-day EHS incredibly difficult. And across the board, the potential benefits of partnership encompass all EHS programs. Vendors can optimize or augment (or completely support) programs of all sorts, including such varied activities as:

And these are just a few areas where partners can assist.

EHS Partnership: Reservations Vs. Opportunities

I’ve seen firsthand many examples of successful waste disposal and other types of EHS partnerships. Nevertheless, I also know that there are managers who simply don’t consider outsourcing in any form—it goes against their assumptions and modus operandi.

They fear any number of things: sudden cost spikes, loss of control, or, if they contract with an unreliable vendor, complete operational standstill or worse. And for some organizations, it doesn’t make financial or operational sense, and the partnership value isn’t there.

Sure, I understand those hesitations—but I also see their limitations. For organizations of all sizes, types, and regions, partnership it is a great opportunity in an industry we know is rapidly changing. As regulatory bodies, customers, and markets shift all around us, the need for partnership is stronger—and more strategic—than ever.

Meaningful collaboration applies not just to a handful of discrete workgroups, but to operations as a whole. Organizations need a trusted EHS advisor who can speak to and positively impact any given process and protocol. And, such a partner should be able to see a bit into the future, continually remaining proactive. This is a great advantage, especially at a time when so many EHS organizations  operate reactively.

Taking on EHS Partnership Objections

But I’m getting ahead of myself: We haven’t discussed the hesitations to partnership yet. I will note that, all too often, managers form their EHS partnership opinions by polling the person at the water cooler; or someone met at a conference; and the like. That’s good as far as it goes, but likely, these informal sources offer only a small bit of the truth.

What if these sources only utilized a vendor for a single, limited project, but not ongoing work? Perhaps one of these sources used a vendor to solve a specific problem—but didn’t know their full capabilities, and were unable to reap all the potential benefits? It's no surprise, perhaps, that there were disappointments. (Please note, however, verified referrals tend to be more trustworthy, and during a partner vetting, worth reaching out to.)  

I, on the other hand, have been in the industry for more than 15 years, working on the other side. I’ve been a vendor who aims to gain the trust needed to be considered a full partner. I’d like to think this gives me ample ammo in the fight against misinformation and myth-based objections. (Such as vendors costing more than a full time hire, not true!) 

Because of my experience, I know the anti-partnership arguments firsthand—and can see why some people hold these opinions. Not every EHS vendor or operational program is created equal. So, I’ll work to balance my perspective by respecting those who don't share my partnership opinions. That said, let’s dissect some of the top anti-EHS partnering misconceptions, objections, and myths I hear repeatedly.

Myth One: EHS Partnerships Cost Too Much Compared to Internal Staff

We’ve covered this particular objection—at length—in a previous blog, which I invite you to explore at your leisure. But sure, we know outside consultants and other specialists cost money. And hopefully, you get what you pay for. But full-time, on-site staff members cost not insignificant cash, too—more than perhaps many administrators realize when they look to hire them.

An employee’s salary is much more than just the base-plus incentives. Among the varied internal costs are:

      • Recruitment, hiring, and provisioning
      • Annual or one-off training
      • Healthcare, retirement, etc.  
      • Administration and supervision

These costs quickly add up to thousands upon thousands of dollars. That doesn’t even include the lost time-to-productivity—that is, the window between hire and start date. That’s the point when the employee is actually performing the job and giving the organization value. That gap costs time and money to the organization.

Then there is the churn problem, which is particularly prevalent in this talent-hungry market. A fully trained and productive internal employee that leaves their role walks away with deep institutional knowledge, which cannot easily be recovered. Overall, the turnover costs of recruiting and training another entry level, competent, technical EHS team member costs as much as $15,000, according to one expert estimate.

So, it’s clear that internal resource costs add up quickly—and managers should consider that when putting in-house vs. outside talent on the scale.

Myth Two: Partnering Is a Step to Eliminating an EHS Department

Internal EHS teams often think that hiring a partner is a slippery slope to making themselves obsolete. This just isn’t so. In fact, in nearly 100% of situations, Triumvirate Environmental’s team helps fill an EHS role that had gone empty for months.

We often come on the scene to assist internal EHS team members when they are at their most needy—such as when they rapidly need to scale up or fill in talent gaps. Usually this occurs during construction spurts, manufacturing line increases, acquisitions, laboratory moves, or during various other growth spikes.

And as an executive with a major EHS partner service provider, I want to make it clear how much I LOVE internal EHS management and staff. My intention is not to replace anyone—but to enhance internal team member performance, provide more resources, and make the EHS manager look the best they can. This should be the goal of any good and dependable EHS partner.

The fact is, we need an internal team to interact with—otherwise we’d become the client. Not only that, but honestly, replacing the internal EHS teams just isn’t in our best interest. We’re collaborators with inside EHS or facilities—not rivals. We want only as much of an EHS operation as it makes sense for us to take, and to which we can add improvement and value.

On top of this, we only stay as long as the client deems it necessary—whether this is a few weeks during a lab relocation or specialized training—or years, to augment team growth. And only in some cases do we stay long-term: Sometimes the client lacks core competencies in these areas (as is the case with a rapidly growing life sciences startup) or sees no innate value in taking them in-house.

And as long as our team members remain on-site, they interact with their client counterparts and integrate into (and seek to improve) the existing group culture.

Myth Three: “We Have ALWAYS Handled EHS Internally and Can/Should Never Change!”

I sympathize with this sentiment, as nobody likes change. Even upgrading our iPhone means a bit of pain as we get used to the newest updates. (Remember when the home button was cancelled? But, ah, I wasn’t a fan!) But this change resistance won’t help when we face the major EHS structural changes that are afoot. They cut across industries—healthcare, life sciences, process manufacturing, academia, gene therapy, and even on to environmental construction and remediation.

There are many change drivers, but predominantly it's COVID-19 that has had the biggest impact. With the pandemic, EHS management has taken on ever-greater importance and responsibility. And the public, along with federal and state governments, are pushing harder to see private and public institutions become more sustainable. Historic EHS approaches and skillsets are evolving all around us.

To keep up—and even thrive—we must rapidly adapt. Today, EHS success now demands not just technical competence, but other capabilities that a top vendor partner can bring, like diligence and deep sustainability knowledge. These qualities increase EHS program reliability, stability, and efficiency—and provide an elevated service level and response time.

So being open to changing policies and embracing outside-inside team members is something worth considering. Even if it hurts a little bit at the start.

Myth Four: Third Parties Sideline Internal EHS Importance

Some managers worry that their own team members will think EHS is a lower priority if a partner is assisting with it. This approach is, to some employees, a sign that management has abdicated its EHS oversight control and responsibilities. Not so.

Historically, much of what falls under the EHS operational umbrella isn’t core to an organization. How many world-class life science researchers see biological safety cabinet (BSC) maintenance as part of their essential vocation, for instance? And that brings up another point: The vendor coming on-site must make the client’s goals their own. The priorities remain the same, and it should always be a WE when partnering.

There is a major difference between a mere competent vendor and a full partner. The vendor will come in and take over a few small EHS program elements, without regard for the others or overall corporate goals. A true partner can factor in all EHS program elements and goals, major and minor.

The partner team members free up the internal management’s time and attention. Freed up, the client admins then can take on all the larger corporate goals and not worry daily about “all of EHS.” The internal team leaders can strive to get more done, hit the reach goals, and sit at the table (as they always should).

Myth Five: Consultants Are for Short-Term, Low-Impact Projects

Reaching out is a changing proposition. The business partner of today can make big, tectonic, and positive shifts happen in the organization. This is a growing trend across industries. For instance, we’ve seen how cloud computing has changed corporate information technology resources consumption forever. Many major institutions outsource email, networking, and even core business applications management permanently to major vendors.

The same applies in our industry. The days of EHS consultants being limited to just coming in for a few weeks, doing some minor tasks, and moving along are over. Embedding top talent on a long-term, high-impact basis is a wonderful way to reap the benefits of an internal EHS hire—without all the added burden. Moreover, a third-party partner will bring an independent perspective to the job, one based on the best practices they have developed or observed in the field.

I see working with a partner as a way to gain vast subject matter expertise from an external network of EHS professionals, on tap, from day one. This partner (like Triumvirate Environmental) can get on-site and start working with proven methods, right away. They make big changes happen over the short and long term.

The client doesn’t need to apply internal, labor intensive, trial-and-error methods to find the best EHS solution for them. It is all readily available through their partnership. This usually results in a competitive advantage, as the partner uses the latest, bleeding-edge management methodologies, instead of allowing slack into the EHS operations.

The right partners can come aboard and provide support for days, week, or months, and do big things.

Partnership for EHS Across the Board

Triumvirate Environmental is an all-around partner for EHS organizations of many sizes and types. At the enterprise level, our EHSOne® program offers a full portfolio of services in a way that makes life easier for the client.

Our revolutionary approach gives one major touchpoint for as many EHS products as the client wants. For midsized clients, we can provide services in packages, or buffet style. For smaller clients in incubation facilities, we offer JumpStart. We can scale to the biggest enterprise, as well. What are your particular needs?

Talk to us today.

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