Strategies for Success with Environmental Regulatory Relations: Part 1

Does your business affect the environment? Perhaps you need a permit. Maybe an inspector visited your site and discovered violations. No doubt you have found yourself in the company of federal, state, or local regulators. Sometimes those interactions go well, sometimes… not so much.

Environmental regulatory issues can be dreadful affairs, but they don’t have to be. In this three-part series, we will explore useful strategies to help achieve a favorable outcome.

 

STRATEGY NO. 1

Build positive relationships with regulators and your surrounding community.

Bob Burg’s now famous relationship-building principle known as the “know, like, trust” factor is a sales concept that can apply to regulatory relations too. The basic principle is that people do business with people they know, like, and trust. Of course, we are not selling to regulators, but it is a transactional relationship, such as receiving a permit or negotiating a penalty. How well we are known, our likeability in conduct, and a trustworthy reputation all form an impression and influence a regulator. This does NOT mean we want the regulator to bend the rules or look the other way (we don’t want that!). Rather, we want to influence the regulator’s comfort level when exercising legal discretion within the regulatory framework. To borrow from Bob Burg’s principle, people seek to agree with people they know, like, and trust.

Tips to consider:

    1. Build relationship with regulator
      Attend workshops or seminars where regulatory personnel are presenting. Introduce yourself. Engage with interest. Ask questions.
    2. Build relationship with your community
      Regulators are accountable to the public and seeing good community relations informs their impression of you. Enroll in a state sponsored stewardship program designed to help businesses go “beyond compliance”. If your state doesn’t have a program, reach out on your own. Offer facility tours. Give neighbors a phone number to call if they have concerns. Plan events and invite the community to attend.
    3. Be proactive in compliance.
      Perform preliminary self-audits to identify any compliance problems. Invite the regulatory inspector to visit your site and share ideas about what could be improved. Show genuine interest in doing the right thing.
    4. Be responsive
      Greet inspectors promptly when they show up at your site. Return phone calls before the end of the day.

Check back next week Part 2!