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Taking a Holistic Approach to EHS and ESG: An Interview with KPA’s CEO, Chris Fanning

Toby Graham /
In this week’s episode of The Safety Meeting, we chat with KPA's CEO, Chris Fanning, to talk about how adopting a holistic approach to safety training will better implement safety-driven cultural change in the long run.
President and CEO Chris Fanning headshot

Thanks for joining us today, Chris. Can you give me the KPA elevator pitch? Who is KPA and how do we help people? 

KPA is solely focused on matters related to ESG and EHS. We’re 300 employees across the United States. And we provide three types of solutions. We have software to help companies create and manage ESG programs; we have expert consultants who advise clients on these programs and help them keep compliant with regulatory requirements across federal state and municipal laws; and we have a massive award-winning online training catalog, bespoke to all matters ESG. 

[00:01:14]
What motivates you on a daily basis? What inspires you to further the KPA mission of keeping organizations safe and compliant? 

There are a few things that motivate me. One is the business. I’m the CEO of the company. I have a responsibility to the employees and to our investors to grow the business, identifying market opportunities, you know, developing solutions in going out there with the rest of the KPA team to help clients and win versus competition where that comes into play.

So it’s just running the business. I’m a competitive guy. I love my job. So that’s part of the motivation. And another part of the motivation, which frankly played a big role in choosing to come to KPA is what we do is we’re helping companies develop ESG and EHS programs and we watch them and help them develop those programs.

And over time, we’re helping them create a safer workplace at the end of the day. So I think there’s a tremendous social good involved in what we do. I feel really great about that. I really do, and I get to see the KPA team kind of grow and develop along the way. It’s very motivating to work with a lot of talent and see people develop and, and challenge them to further themselves, professionally. And interacting with them and customers is, it should be, and it often is fun. Like you gotta have a little fun along the way or else what’s the point, right? 

[00:02:48]
Absolutely. What does KPA provide that sets us apart from the other organizations that do this work? 

Yeah. You know, it’s interesting that the three areas that I’ve mentioned, you know, we have software, we have expert consultants, and online training.

I actually think what we do, that’s very differentiated is we bring all three to the marketplace. If you look at the ESG space, you will find a couple of dynamics at play. One is you have a lot of software startups who are on the scene now trying to grow, trying to basically catch the tailwinds of ESG. And from a software perspective, there are some that are really good and some that are not so good, but my experience talking to those companies is oftentimes they’re designing a product without the necessary ESG background or understanding of the problem they’re trying to solve from the perspective of the safety person who’s ultimately trying to implement the program. And as a former software engineer, I get that. Sometimes you’re so intent on coding away, that you forget there’s somebody out there who has to use this and you need to empathize with their role. And at KPA, we actually have a number of people who have been safety directors, and program leaders at other companies, they bring that expertise and they help shape our software products with that mindset.

So that’s really important. You will also find kind of like expert consulting companies out there who typically go in and do like project-based work. So they might know the regulatory requirements, they have the expertise, but they’re service companies that are going in to do project-based work. And what they don’t offer is the software product that they can combine to really create and institutionalize a safety program or ESG program. It’s kind of like you get the expertise, but when they go away, the project’s done, have they really helped institutionalize something? And they’re assuming that you’ll go out and figure the software piece out on your own, which you can do.

And then the third part is the online training. There are a lot of training companies out there. Online training is a huge industry beyond ESG. A lot of companies put content out. What we find is embedding the training in your ESG software platform is really the smart play for the long game, because what you’re doing is you’re getting people to engage in the platform to do training. It’s the same platform, hopefully where people are reporting incidents and accidents and looking up regulatory requirements and maybe safety data sheets if you have chemicals on-premise. It’s really a more holistic approach, which again, if you’re a safety director trying to implement a cultural change, you don’t want people having to be aware of three different systems and logging in and it gets tough.

It makes a hard job that much harder. So I think having all three under one KPA umbrella is the differentiator. It really is, we’re pretty unique in that respect. 

[00:06:06]
Yeah, I would agree. It strikes me with KPA, how many of our employees from all different departments come from a background of working in the fields that they now support?

I think that’s so unique and really helps set us apart from the rest. 

So, what are you particularly proud of when it comes to KPA safety solutions and the team that provides them? 

Well, in the end, what KPA does is we’re helping companies create safer workplaces, and that in turn reduces injury, sometimes fatalities. And I think knowing that we contribute in our own way to people who are working at companies, being able to return to their families after their time at work is beyond gratifying. And it’s hard to quantify. I know each and every year we have an impact and you have to feel great about that. 

I’m also proud of the way we worked as a company. I just, I think if you talked to any KPA employee, you’ll find they’re super focused on customers. We’re very collaborative as a company. Everyone is always very willing to contribute toward our goals and our customer’s goals. And I think that’s a cultural environment I’m especially proud of, as well as what we do. 

[00:07:30]
As you should be. So where do you see the future of safety and compliance heading and how will KPA adapt to meet those future safety needs? 

Tremendous long-term growth ahead. This is the classic rising tide that lifts all boats. I think if you looked at industries across the world and you’d find few that would rival ESG as a growth industry.

So that’s great, with my business hat on. I think many people are becoming more and more aware of ESG and EHS. It’s still early stages, you know, it feels like it’s a topic that’s been in the media so much that people kind of think like, “Yeah, I got it,” but I don’t think they do. I think it’s the classic, once you begin to learn a little bit about an area, you realize how little you truly know. There’s a huge educational ramp ahead, which is fine.

And there are companies like KPA and others who are going to do their best to help educate people and train people. I think there is a huge opportunity for tech-enabled solutions to find their way into the workplace. You know, wearables, a whole bunch of technology that is really just now being the tip of the iceberg.

I think there are so many potential applications out there. As usual, it’s going to come down to how comfortable people are at the pulling, the technology, the economics involved, you know, the capital cost. The cost of ownership. And as more companies get in and develop solutions and are always looking to push down the cost structure, I think the economics will take care of themselves and you’ll see the classic adoption curve across many different companies.

 I think all countries will increase their oversight and they’ll legislate. More and more regulations for businesses. Albeit, at different rates and different levels, right? Depending on US or Europe or Asia. But I do think there’s a holistic theme that there will be more regulation. There’ll be a rapid change in that regulation.

I think there’ll be increasing pressure from workers, frankly, to, you know, people want to work at companies that have an ESG responsible program. And I think over time, you do it because you really believe in it and you want to, and I think they’ll be a portion of the world who will do it because they have to. Either way, that’s a positive.

So that’s, whatever the motivation, that’s a positive outcome, which I guess is really what we’re all trying to navigate. And I think from KPA, we’re just going to keep doing what we do, which is be creative. Be inventive with solutions. Listen. Not only to our customers, but we’re always talking to prospective customers.

We’re trying to learn about developing trends and different types of technologies. We might incorporate it into our solutions, and then we just have to continue to collaborate and adapt quickly and hopefully come out with better and better products and services that will meet more and more people’s needs.

As we grow the business, continue to reinvest in making more products and better products for customers alike, and it’s just hopefully rinse and repeat so to speak. And hopefully, we just continue to be prosperous and contribute to a lot of companies’ well-being. 

[00:10:55]
Well, I, for one, I’m excited to see where the industry goes and where KPA goes along with it.

Chris: We agree on that. 

[00:11:03]
Well, thank you Chris so much for speaking with us today. I really appreciate you coming on here. 

Thank you. It’s my pleasure. 

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