Implementation Roles, Responsibilities and Accountability

Leadership Charting the Way

A successful environmental compliance program in the corporate world today requires a level of commitment by management that promotes and supports the integration of compliance into the corporate culture. The attitude taken by corporate managers and leadership regarding environmental compliance will set the tone for the organization as a whole and have a direct bearing on the level of importance employees place on compliance in the performance of their job duties. Corporations that integrate environmental compliance into their strategic planning and daily operations must also clearly communicate their vision and expectations throughout the organizational structure. An environmental compliance policy that is openly promoted by management and consistently emphasized is much more likely to be embraced by employees as an important aspect of their job responsibilities rather than just a necessary inconvenience.

Empowering employees to take ownership of this type of corporate priority is more readily accommodated by a corporate structure which includes a process for governing the flow down and implementation of environmental regulatory requirements. As depicted in Figure 4.1? a business model that provides for a procedural- ized process to identify and flow down regulatory requirements creates opportunities for employees to participate and can also serve as an invitation for them to take on responsibilities within the process. An established process for requirements flow down will not only provide a means for empowering employees, it will also ensure requirements are consistently flowed down throughout the organization. Corporate environmental policies that are clearly communicated and consistently supported by all levels of management not only help to emphasize the importance of the policies, but can also serve as a strong catalyst in creating a positive and impassioned culture throughout the organization.

Leadership Style and Impact

There are many different leadership styles applied in business and industry, and each has been labeled based on the general characteristics of the associated style of management (Figure 4.2). Some of the more common leadership styles often found in academic and instructional literature include:

Governing requirements flow down

FIGURE 4.1 Governing requirements flow down.

Leadership styles and employee participation

FIGURE 4.2 Leadership styles and employee participation.

  • • Transformational - always transforming, emphasizes continuous improvement
  • • Transactional - focused on achieving or exceeding established goals
  • • Democratic - employee input solicited in decision-making
  • • Autocratic - does not solicit employee input in decision-making
  • Laissez-faire - hands-off approach, employees are entrusted to get their work done with limited management oversight
  • • Bureaucratic - focused on following established rules, regulations and policies
  • • Situational - utilizes a mix of leadership styles, depending on the situation

Each style of leadership has a characteristic that defines the style, and each most likely has specific environments where their focus may be more conducive to a desired result. Two questions immediately come to mind when considering leadership styles and environmental compliance: Which leadership style is best suited for organizations responsible for environmental compliance? Is a single leadership style adequate or does utilizing various combinations of leadership styles produce better results?

A study on leadership styles in the North American environmental sector found that leaders in the environmental sector often utilize a mix of leadership styles and due to the dynamic and complex nature of the environmental field, environmental managers need a diverse set of leadership skills and the ability to rapidly change between styles. The same study also proposes a model where leadership skills are associated with an ecocentric set of values and a focus on creating and maintaining sustainable relationships with employees and other stakeholders (Egri and Herman 2000). The findings of this study clearly propose that utilizing a single leadership style would not be optimum for environmental leaders. Considering the complexity of environmental compliance, it is reasonable to conclude that environmental compliance managers would benefit from possessing a well-rounded set of leadership skills that encompass aspects from numerous leadership styles, and this is best expressed as a situational leadership style.

The size of a company will obviously impact the organizational structure and associated management structure. Larger companies with more complex organizational structures inherently create a need for a greater number of managers as compared to smaller companies operating with fewer employees. The organizational mission and goals of a company will undoubtedly also exhibit influence on managers and their approaches for leadership. However, one can argue that any company regardless of size and mission can benefit from managers who possess situational leadership skills and are well versed in utilizing the collective skill set. Each of the leadership styles described above is typified by a characteristic that can be beneficial to an organization. The importance of continuous improvement, employee recognition, democratic decision-making, a delegatory management style and adherence to the rules all have their place in business and industry. Companies that operate in highly regulated environments can benefit from a positive and proactive compliance culture with a foundation built on empowering employees through the utilization of a situational leadership style that emphasizes employee involvement, recognition, process ownership and responsibility.

Communicating the Importance of Environmental Compliance

One of the most important aspects of a successful compliance program is a commitment by management to support the integration of compliance into business activities and operations. As discussed in the above section on leadership styles, creating a proactive compliance culture must begin at the top levels of management with a sincere and committed objective of enabling the desired culture to flourish. It is important for employees to fully understand and appreciate managements’ attitude toward environmental compliance. A one-time declaration by management on the importance of environmental compliance is far less effective than a documented policy or mission statement that is visible, accessible and its importance continually reiterated by management. In regard to organizational communication, top-down communication is an important aspect that when used effectively can result in company policies having more of a positive influence on employee attitudes and conduct (Guest and Conway 2006).

However, communicating the importance of environmental compliance goes beyond documenting and reiterating a company’s environmental policy. The management commitment to environmental compliance also has to be integrated into and emphasized on other ongoing organization elements such as training, requirements governance, work procedures, process improvement, stakeholder relationships, public affairs messaging and commitment of resources. The employees’ perception of a company’s level of commitment to environmental compliance is based on the degree that management leads and actively supports the integration of compliance into relevant aspects of the organization. A company that makes the statement that environmental compliance is important but fails to integrate it into business practices, processes and training is in reality sending a diluted message to employees that will not encourage a proactive culture and most likely will result in a more indolent attitude toward compliance.

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