8 trends shaping the next decade of digital EHS&S

Comparing 2020 and 2017 survey data identifies digital EHS&S trends shaping spending dynamics, strategic priorities and staff responsibilities.

A woman looking at data

If your digital transformation roadmap does not include plans to bring EHS&S 4.0 along, it is time to schedule a detour. As I recently discussed at NAEM’s EHS&S Management Forum, sector leaders are embracing digital EHS&S’s potential to provide risk assurance and satisfy investors’ surging interest in sustainability. 

Digitalization can integrate people, processes, technology and performance across enterprises. But to maximize these investments, you need an actionable framework that considers future trends impacting the industry. 

Our Digital EHS&S 2020 Survey gives you a better idea on where digital EHS&S is heading. The paper compares similar benchmarking surveys from 2020 and 2017, identifying trends that provide a first look at what the next decade might hold. With insights into how centralization, digitization and elevation of EHS&S to the corporate level is affecting spending dynamics, strategic priorities and staff responsibilities among global leaders, you could chart the ideal route to EHS&S 4.0. 

Plan your digital transformation with these 8 trends in mind

  1. Strategic value is driving EHS&S spend. Risk management, corporate/strategic initiatives and increased operational efficiency were noted as the top three driving forces for investing in EHS&S. 

  2. EHS&S is moving closer to the c-suite. Thirty-five percent of the survey respondents say EHS&S are corporate-level functions that report directly to CEO or COO. 

  3. EHS leaders are shifting from decentralized and hybrid models to more centralized EHS&S functions. Throughout different industries, more companies are adopting corporate-level digital EHS&S rather than at the facility level.

  4. EHS&S spending was significantly lower in 2019 than 2016. This trend likely aligns with the migration to centralized functions, as the large investments on the horizon three years ago accounted for the centralization journey.

  5. Digital EHS&S services remain heavily outsourced. Fifty-nine percent of companies maintained their level of outsourcing digital EHS&S functions in the past year, with 23% increasing it.

  6. Transparency is prompting sustainability investments. Many organizations are seeing that transparent sustainability is becoming more important to investors and responding in kind. Whereas most sustainability staffs had five members or less in 2017, we are seeing a greater percentage of larger sustainability teams in 2020.

  7. New technologies are gaining momentum. Mobile tools are increasingly being incorporated into EHS&S functions, as are wearables and predictive analytics. New digital tools such as artificial intelligence and Internet of Things (IoT) will continue to gain momentum.

  8. Incident management is evolving. Solutions like predictive analytics can help organizations with the greatest opportunity for improving EHS&S – using incident management data differently. By putting predictive EHS&S into practice, leaders can filter the wealth of data captured around incidents through a forward-looking lens that results in safer operations.

The next decade offers the opportunity to continue to enhance operations and reduce risk. Your organization’s journey to EHS&S 4.0 will be unique, but keeping industry-wide trends in mind will help you map long-term strategies for leveraging digital EHS&S insights in overall business planning. For more details, download the results from our Digital EHS&S 2020 Survey.


Mark Weitner

Vice President, Digital EHS&S +1 713 953 4826 Ask me a question
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