Sustainability and safety, the inseparable twins

“A safe business is a sustainable business,” says Anne Helenius-Heir, the Vice President of Kemira’s EHSQ function tasked with helping the company to think and act responsibly every day.
Woman with sort grey hair black glasses and smiling at the camera.

“When people think about sustainability, they don’t always think about people and chemical safety, but they are inextricably linked,” says Anne Helenius-Heir. “The name of my function says it all: environmental, health, safety, and quality, EHSQ – the cornerstones of any good, responsible business,” Anne explains.

The EHSQ function plays a critical role in helping Kemira to be the first choice as a responsible and sustainable employer and supplier to our customers. “We have to look at all our processes – like R&D and manufacturing, including waste management and how we can use recyclable and recycled materials in our products for instance,” Anne explains. “We also have to consider reliability and EHSQ in our sourcing and sales activities. Sustainability is connected to everything we do, and our performance is how we want to stand out from the competition,” Anne continues.

Sustainability is not only about the environment and energy. It is also about safety: process and environmental safety, people safety, and product safety, which includes compliance, substance evaluation, and responsible care programs for cradle-to-grave chemical management.

Sustainability is connected to everything we do, and our performance is how we want to stand out from the competition.

Good EHSQ is good business

A responsible and thorough attitude to EHSQ helps everything else fall into place. Incidents and accidents can result in personal injury or even environmental impact, which nobody wants to see happen. They can also lead to disruptions in a project or manufacturing process.

“We have to make sure we take care of everything right down to the very last detail, to get it right first time. Good EHSQ – good housekeeping, good safety practices, solid training – none of these things are rocket science, but they do not happen without commitment. Good EHSQ is also a key factor for maintaining our reputation as a responsible, sustainable company,” Anne highlights.

“In this regard the chemical industry as a whole is doing well, but there’s definitely room for improvement,” Anne continues. “In Kemira we are proud to be able to say that we have 25 production sites that have had no recorded incidents for over three years, and more than half of our 63 sites have been incident-free for more than one year.

Continuing to build a culture of prevention

“We want to focus on preventive measures to stop incidents or accidents from occurring in the first place. This can be as simple as educating people to identify and report leaking pipes, dangerous looking steps, or even potentially unsafe working practices such as poor tool use or other hazardous activities. But building a sustainable EHSQ culture goes beyond just manufacturing sites. Slips, trips, and falls can happen in office environments too,” Anne points out.

Measure what really matters, and don’t rush in unprepared

Building a solid safety culture doesn’t happen overnight, it’s about a cultural and behavioral shift. Kemira has some specific initiatives in place that focus on people and the way they think and act at work.

“For example, with our behavior-based safety program we observe and discuss both safe and unsafe conditions that could lead to incidents and accidents. We also record findings so that we can measure trends, see whether things are going in the right direction, and identify common issues and look for preventive measures,” Anne says. Another example of a simple yet effective approach to increasing safety is Kemira’s StopThinkAct initiative. “We want to encourage people to stop, think, act – in that order,” Anne emphasizes.

Woman with short grey hair and black glasses smiling at the camera.
Anne Helenius-Heir
Job title
Vice President, EHSQ
At Kemira since
Helsinki, Finland
Topics to watch
Behavioral safety in business, human rights issues under the umbrella of sustainability, tackling plastic waste
Words to live by
Like in all the classic police series: “Be careful out there”
What motivates me
helping people understand the full meaning of sustainability beyond just waste and CO2; spending time with family including my dogs, especially at the summer cottage.
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