EHS Programs: How to Win Approval for a Cost Increase

You’re tasked with ambitious goals for your EHS program all the time. Here’s how to convince your boss to approve the cost increase you need to make it happen.

By Cory Sander

As an EHS professional, you’re tasked with ambitious goals for your EHS program all the time. Reduce landfill waste by 25%. Increase worker safety. Decrease energy usage. And, oh, can you do it all with no cost increase?

Wait, what? Every EHS manager knows those goals typically come with a price tag, but all is not lost. You can still find EHS success if you hone your skills for pitching—and winning approval for—a cost increase. There’s no magic formula for success, but we’ve put together some EHS solutions for tipping the odds in your favor.

Play to your manager’s personality.

Every management team is different, so it’s important to know your boss’s personality and act accordingly. In some cases, you’ll need to start planting seeds for weeks or months before you make the big ask. Mention in your weekly meeting that corporate is still dead-set on reducing landfill waste by 25%. Or share information about recycling vendors you’re researching.

Other leaders just want the highlights in one or two effective PowerPoint slides during a quick meeting. And yet other managers want you to walk them through a more detailed report with every base covered. Match your approach to your manager’s personality and style.

Make comparisons to peer companies.

People are competitive. They want to keep up with the Joneses, or in this case, maybe the competitor across town. To win buy-in for an initiative, share what other companies in the same industry are doing. Forward the article about that big-name equipment company’s new safety program. Or create a slide showing how you stack up against industry averages and share it with your leadership team.

Always calculate the ROI.

Never ask for a cost increase without talking about return on investment (ROI). Yes, it’s costly to replace all those fluorescent light bulbs with LED ones, but you’ll also cut the electricity costs by a fourth. Create a graph that shows the return on investment over time.

Typically, most companies are looking for a two-year ROI, so try to plan your project so it meets this timeline. In some companies, it’s acceptable to apply a little creative math, such as leaving out labor costs. Know your culture and make the best case you can within those boundaries.

Broaden your definition of ROI.

Not every gain for a new EHS project boils down to strict dollars and cents in a chart, so think about the bigger impacts for your company, too. Will you get positive press in the local media for your landfill waste reduction? Does that new safety equipment make your facility a more attractive place to work? And potentially make recruiting and retention easier?

Think about the larger impact on your company’s brand, too. Many studies show that millennials flock to brands with a real environmental conscious, even if the products cost more. Your latest environmental project may pay off for the marketing and sales in tangible dollars down the line.

Don’t be discouraged by a “No.”

A “no” this week or year isn’t a “no” forever. Start by making sure you understand why the request didn’t get approved. Was cost the primary concern? Or were they worried about shipping waste products across the country for recycling? Arm yourself with as much knowledge as possible, so you can craft a better solution or pitch next time.

Then use this information to look for an alternative solution. Research local vendors or look for lower cost solutions to the problem. You might explore changing a process or material, for example, to achieve the same safety results as costly equipment.

It can take time, strategy and a little luck to find the right solution and win approval for a cost increase. But there’s always a way to arrive at EHS success.