EHS Consultancies Should Embrace Digitization With A Firm-Wide Strategic Approach

EHS consultancies are experiencing a transformational change towards the digitization of their value propositions. Virtually all EHS services firms have broadened their use of digital tools from environmental data management (EDM) software and EHS software implementation, to mobile apps, business intelligence tools, and IoT sensors. The transition to digitization is inevitable. Whilst customers are only starting to request for specific tech in projects, the benefits of digitizing EHS services are evident – improving efficiency, enhancing quality, and speeding up project delivery, to name a few. In this light, how should EHS service providers prepare for this transition?

Digital fluency has not been a core competence for EHS consultants. Yet, increasingly EHS services firms prefer to recruit consultants with deeper IT expertise in systems integration, data science, and technology partnerships, for example. See the case of PwC employing more than 1,000 data scientists between 2016 and 2018; or innovative EHS services provider SustainIt who have invested in partnerships with a multitude of technology vendors. Consultants also experience difficulties in identifying best fit technologies for specific projects. To overcome these problems, Ramboll, promotes knowledge sharing of best practices for technology adoption through their internal online platform ‘Digital Workplace’.

Consultants need to choose how they allocate their time across the plethora of potential technologies including machine learning for workforce management, interactive data visualisation, artificial intelligence (AI) for data analytics, or automated data capture from telemetry sensors and drones. Different EHS consultancies have made a range of choices. Jacobs-CH2M, for example, plans to minimize safety risk by reducing site work through adoption of drones and telemetry loggers for automatic data capture. AECOM has used machine learning to minimize the number of samples required for collection before locating the contamination areas.

Succeeding in the digital transition requires a firm-wide strategic approach. This includes a strong leadership team dedicated to the initiative, and a digital cohort ready to switch from their traditional ways. Collaboration - whether through technology partnerships or with clients and ecosystem partners - to identify digital opportunities is a clever move if these are mapped back to the firm’s specific technology roadmap.