Boards are concerned with strategy, risk, and how people and natural resources are integrated into strategy execution. As safety professionals we should be too. Although it is smart to take the advice to speak the language of business you also need to translate Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S) for the c-suite and directors. When you are invited to present to your board it will be to support them in solving an EH&S business challenge.
The executives and board directors expect that you are expert in the field of EH&S, they're not. Your work is to close the boardroom's EH&S knowledge gap so they can achieve good business outcomes from their deliberations.
If we agree that Boards are focused on helping the CEO build relevant strategy, you can also work on that effort. It is easy to see how our interest in the mechanics of EH&S can be overwhelming to directors with limited knowledge. They want to know how the value can be unlocked to solve the business issue on the agenda.
This mean you have to spend time getting your EH&S expertise aligned with the specific issue on the agenda. For example, if the invite for you to present comes from a request for information from an investor then know the investor's approach to EH&S. If it comes from a compliance issue, provide a brief overview to build context on how, for example, OSHA works.
It is important to use this opportunity to show your value in helping move an issue forward and not make the mistake to "tell all" about what your know about EH&S. Your briefing is a way for the board to understand the EH&S opportunities and risks as they assess an investment – money, resources, people, time, etc. Think about how to make the 30 minutes valuable for those in the room.
Before we can be strategic let's take a look at what is the dictionary calls strategy "the skill of making or carrying out plans to achieve a goal." Before you can be strategic, you should learn about the plan under discussion. It is essential that you know:
Where you are now - the current position/place.
Where you are going and how EH&S might be a competitive or compliance advantage.
Approach for how to achieve the plan and where EH&S connects to the execution.