Sustainability & EHS Summit Europe: Becoming Chief Sustainability And HSE Officer

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Sustainability & EHS Summit Europe: Becoming Chief Sustainability And HSE Officer

As regulatory and public scrutiny intensifies, achieving excellence in environment, health and safety (EHS) is a multifaceted challenge. Leaders must grapple with escalating demands for reporting, navigate complex regulatory requirements, keep employees healthy, ensure operations are safe and sustainable, and confront the formidable task of digitizing and streamlining processes. To help the European EHS community respond to these complex requirements, the Verdantix Sustainability & EHS Summit Europe is coming to Amsterdam, Netherlands on the 4th and 5th of June.

Ahead of the event, Verdantix gathered insights from one of the speakers at the summit, Isidora Diaz, to provide a sneak peek at the kind of expertise to expect in Amsterdam. Isidora is Chief Sustainability and HSE Officer at Parques Reunidos Group, and she will be participating in a panel on "Engaging the C-Suite on EHS: A Seat at the Executive Table".

How did you become a Chief Sustainability and HSE Officer?
The word ‘chief’ appeared in my title back in 2020, however, no matter the name of my role, I’ve always worked in sustainability-related areas. I started my career in the waste management sector, pioneering initiatives related to the circular economy and waste to energy. From there I moved to the manufacturing and construction sector, leading health and safety and incident prevention strategies, and later on to innovation and product development aiming to reduce climate impact and natural resources deployment. Supplier engagement, covering health and safety and human rights in high-risk countries, is also an area I feel proud to have developed years ago. Even in years when I had management roles with full profit and loss business responsibility, I was also working in sustainability while addressing labour issues or community engagement. With my background in industrial sector, it has been an amazing journey to apply all those learnings to my role as Chief Sustainability and HSE Officer of Parques Reunidos Group, an organization in the leisure sector.

What would you say are the top entertainment and leisure sector sustainability priorities?
The top sustainability priorities in the entertainment and leisure sector are centred on reducing environmental impact and maximizing social sustainability opportunities. Reducing the carbon footprint is crucial; our sector is mainly outdoors so it is deeply affected by climate-related events, from extreme weather to water scarcity. Using renewable energy sources, implementing energy- and water-efficient technologies, and promoting sustainable transportation options for our guests are some of the strategies that can be adopted. Waste management is another priority, with an emphasis on promoting circularity and minimizing single-use plastics. Additionally, the sector prioritizes social aspects like health and safety for staff and customers, or fair labour practices within the value chain. Last but not least, there is a growing need to create inclusive and accessible experiences for all individuals, ensuring that entertainment and leisure activities are available to everyone, regardless of their abilities.

To build on this, how do EHS and ESG overlap – and what specific ESG issues should EHS practitioners be concerned about?
There is plenty of noise about wording: sustainability, ESG, HSE, EHS…. No matter what you call them, both EHS and ESG are (or should be !) not only about preventing harm but about achieving positive impact for people and planet. If we all agree that climate change mitigation, the circular economy, efficient resource use, and incident prevention for both workers and customers are important topics, then ESG as broader framework provides an opportunity for HSE practitioners to ‘connect the dots’, including issues like diversity and inclusion, community engagement, human rights, and corporate governance into their health and safety programmes, or address environmental due diligence as an element of their environmental programmes.

By considering EHS factors within their ESG strategies, organizations can demonstrate a comprehensive approach to sustainability, addressing both their internal operations and external environmental and societal impact. This integration allows firms to align their environmental and social goals with their financial objectives, ultimately enhancing their long-term success and value creation.

One of the main ESG-related topics we will address at Sustainability & EHS Summit Europe is the impact of approaching CSRD requirements. How should organizations prepare for this, and how are you approaching it at Parques Reunidos?
The Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) will be a game changer. Organizations are preparing themselves to address what seem to be its ‘reporting requirements’, but reporting should never be a firm’s end goal – and it’s not the end goal of CSRD. At Parques Reunidos, I do see CSRD as an opportunity to further enhance the integration of environmental, social and governance matters across the organization and its different areas. Areas that may not have traditionally been involved, like finance or internal audit, now have a key role to play and this will be extremely positive.

What differences, if any, are there in EHS best practices throughout different regions across Europe?
Different regions face different environmental and social challenges, and this shapes their priorities somewhat. Water scarcity, for example, is becoming a key issue in Spain; this triggers best practice development that we may not see in northern Europe. The regulatory framework is also a driver for best practice implementation, as seen in the supply chain due diligence act launched in Germany.

At the Verdantix Sustainability & EHS Summit Europe, you are speaking about engaging the C-Suite. What do you recommend HSE and sustainability leaders do to engage executives and secure these issues a spot on the C-Suite’s agenda?
I used to say that “sustainability is not what happens in my office”. Each C-Suite member has a part to play, from the People and Organization department that supports diversity, equity and inclusion strategies, to Procurement that supports renewable energy sourcing and supplier engagement, to Finance that translates sustainability-related impacts and dependencies into financial risk and opportunity metrics. EHS and sustainability professionals must understand that this is a game where each player has a role, and that they cannot play alone. Once those in the C-Suite understand how they can contribute, and that sustainability is not ‘something on the top’ but ‘the way of doing’ their daily duties, the ball starts to roll.

What are you looking forward to most at the Verdantix Sustainability & EHS Summit Europe?
Sharing practices and sharing challenges. We tend to be overly positive at this kind of event and I do believe there is a need to openly share the roadblocks and difficulties that we as EHS and sustainability professionals may face when developing and implementing EHS and ESG-related strategies. The problems that the planet and society face are global, so there is a need to work together to find global solutions that can then be tailored to specific sectors or to specific organizations with different maturity levels.

Isidora Diaz will be attending the Verdantix Sustainability & EHS Summit Europe, which is taking place in Amsterdam on the 4th and 5th of June. Book your pass before the 25th of February to save €350 on your ticket to join Isidora Diaz, the Verdantix research team, corporates such as AkzoNobel, Amazon, Chevron and Netflix, and leading environment, health and safety vendors. See the full speaker line up and event agenda here.

Book your ticket here. If you are providing or selling services, technologies or products that improve environment, health and/or safety performance and want to attend the event, please fill in the Sustainability & EHS Summit Europe Sponsorship Enquiry form. Alternatively, register your interest in vendor tickets.

For any further questions on this please contact Moses Makin - [email protected].

Moses Makin

Moses joined Verdantix in 2023 as a Conference Producer in the Events team. His role is to shape the strategy, content and commercial direction of Verdantix events. Before joining Verdantix, Moses worked on conferences related to renewable energy and the early adoption of ‘deep-tech’. These events addressed topics such as energy storage, power purchase agreements, privacy-enhancing technologies, AI hardware, the IoT and animal microbiomes. Moses has a BA in Economics and History from the University of Leeds. Whilst studying for that, he completed a summer exchange in Hong Kong and an internship at the Civil Service.