Today we are celebrating 26 years of best practice and HSSE Excellence.
Continuing, from what Toni said, because of the quarter century of work we have been doing in the HSSE space, when the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in T&T, we were able to continue with our HSSE Education and Advocacy for our members. In many instances, we created additional avenues to share information such as a COVID-19 return to work guide and several topical webinars. Indeed, we kept the conference running via an online version for the past two years.
So, today it feels so good to be here with you and to be able to interact physically with everyone at this - the largest, best and longest, continuously-running HSSE Conference in the region!
We have an exciting agenda for you over the next three days. In addition to our usual, HSE agenda in which we will cover many traditional topics through the introduction of cutting-edge thought leadership, we have a full cyber security agenda – a Conference on its own really – running in parallel.
This year, we are also hosting a couple of highly impactful, free educational sessions on the ground floor under the POS Ballroom. Every year at this Conference, you may be accustomed to us lamenting the safety statistics and calling for the need to spread HSE to those sectors that do not exhibit strong safety records. We’ve therefore, extended the Conference to host important educational sessions on key topics related to HSE. These sessions will be held downstairs and are expected to reach 80 companies based on registrations - and whilst we agree it is a small number, we think it is a huge step towards further improving safety culture and performance in the private sector.
And of course, we have an excellent exhibition. So much so that we had to add space – twice and still turn away potential exhibitors. So please take some time and visit the booths.
At these sessions, we will cover hot-button topics such as Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) - a framework which we hope more and more companies adopt when making decisions and assessing performance! AMCHAM T&T is proud of its collaboration with the United Nations toward creating an ESG toolkit that is designed to educate participants on ESG and the framework for governance. Some hard copies are available and we will ensure that all participants get at least a digital copy by the end of the Conference. I must single out the support we got from Mark Thomas, of the UNDP on this. Mark is here- so permit me to again say thank you for your leadership and collaboration on this Mark.
We also have also added another important segment that speaks to the heart of what we do at AMCHAM T&T. We are proud to be the lead in Trinidad and Tobago under the banner of ARISE for building private sector resilience with respect to building a Disaster Resilient Society in Trinidad and Tobago. We are going to have a panel today on Disaster Management as well as we are hosting a training session on BCP. Additionally, our listening exercise tomorrow will be conducted with the public sector, private sector, and insurance companies.
AMCHAM T&T believes that we need an all-hands-on-deck approach to achieving resilience and in re-imagining HSSE. It is important that the private sector, labour, NGOs, and Government move towards a new platform of trust and greater collaboration because what exists today is not solving the problems that affect us all in the ways that we need. No one group holds the solutions and no one group is responsible for where we are today. Let’s start from there and move forward together.
Permit me here to put a couple of HSSE concepts into a national framework. Leadership, culture and psychological safety are absolutely critical to achieving results in a company and in a country.
We seem to have become afraid of big ideas. We are so bogged down by the many challenges we face that we are ignoring too many of our strengths. Who are we and what do we want to be as a country? What’s our place in the world and what are we going to dream of and then act on to get there? Recently Jamaica’s Prime Minister spoke of Jamaica becoming a producer of technology. We at AMCHAM T&T have been advocating that as a country, the Government, Private Sector, Academia and related institutions come together to develop a local tech sector as a new pillar of the economy for at least the past five years.
So, let’s dream and imagine that we will have a top-tier software development centre from one of the major tech companies – Google, IBM, Meta or the like – established in T&T within the next 24 months. We will create the conditions for the creation of 100 tech startups in the next three years. We will facilitate the growth of 25 tech companies so that they each earn a minimum of USD 5 million in revenue from outside of Trinidad.
Imagine that we will reform the education sector to mainstream teaching and learning through multiple intelligences. We will create spaces in communities where the data shows that academic performance is low, to teach coding, build sporting capacity and create performing arts spaces.
Imagine that we will get crime under control so that families can walk comfortably on the Brian Lara, Scarborough and San Fernando promenades late at night while listening to live music as restaurants, bars and café's set up their patios and outside dining.
Imagine that we will deal with traffic so that no one has to spend, in the first instance, more than an hour to get from any point of the highway to another and add metrics for times for highway access from other towns.
Imagine that we will totally eradicate flooding in T&T starting concurrently with the communities that are most frequently affected and the towns which have been most severely affected in recent times. We will implement the feed-in tariff legislation within three months with a goal of having at least 30% of homes completely self-sufficient with their power generation needs within three years. We will become a centre of excellence for carbon credits.
Imagine that government data will be real-time and accessible allowing everyone to make better decisions.
Imagine that we would actually know what the procedures, times and costs for Customs clearance would be for business planning or even the arrival of personal items.
I throw these things out because it often feels like we aren’t sure where we’re going. I say this despite the great work being done by many in the public sector. But the communication, engagement and time lag between the idea and the result, all undermine the effort. Moreover, in building culture, the demonstration of small but tangible results aligned with the achievement of the vision is often missing.
Too often, when people and organisations who want to help or use their lived experience to offer suggestions or advice are dismissed and branded as non-supporters to be ignored.
The reality is that T&T is at a crossroads. The society is deeply fractured and the middle and working classes are under extreme pressure. No one expects the Government to solve all problems and the private sector is more than willing to do our part. We can only do so through meaningful engagement, even if we don’t agree on everything from the get-go.
This, therefore, is an appeal for more collaboration around shared objectives. This is a call to action. A call to make T&T more resilient – socially, economically and physically – not just for today but for decades and decades to come. Let us embrace the big ideas, the healthy tension created by deep and meaningful collaboration across diverse groups. Let us commit to building more trust by taking decisive action to achieve the incremental things that will show progress. Let us commit to listening and consulting more and better to create psychological safety to get more and better ideas so many of us are rowing in the same direction.
And finally, we need to understand how we learn. Toni spoke about not needing another pandemic to spark change and learning, and I want to not only agree but posit that we learn from both positive and negative incidents. Reports are not published at a national level which would allow others to proactively manage risk and learn from these accidents and incidents. We are not asking for the sharing of specifics that may be the subject of litigation, but we are asking for data at a national level to be publicly available. This will also help with trust building.
In closing, I want to recognize the supervisors and business leaders in the room today and those online at their offices or homes. AMCHAM T&T has been able to deliver best practices and provide a platform for the sharing of these ideas which would ultimately lead to the improvement of National HSE. We have done this for 26 years and it is only possible through YOU - who make the time and space for your employees to sit on committees and volunteer their time and share their knowledge. And whilst many companies employ different methods of tracking employee contribution to external bodies - I thank you for making your employees available to create a better Trinidad and Tobago, where it is not just their safety they take time to think about and design processes - but rather they contribute to National service. For those of you who are still wondering if you should give your employees the time to volunteer to initiatives like this- I challenge you that by the end of the three days you would see what we can accomplish with volunteerism. Our HSSE Committee is awesome in that regard. Thank you so much to all the Committee members who give so much. And we welcome volunteers to the many initiatives we are undertaking at AMCHAM T&T to create a better business and living environment for the country.
It is no ‘ole talk’ at AMCHAM T&T, I am proud to say we are fortunate to have committed CEOs and HSSE professionals, who continuously go beyond the call not only for their own companies - but for their industries, colleagues, and us here at AMCHAM and the Government. Again, thank you. I must say special thanks to the team at the AMCHAM T&T who always go above and beyond the make this event a success. But I have to make a special mention of my colleague Melissa Pierre who leads this initiative and has grown with the event over the years.
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