It’s quite interesting to know that a number of corporations are beginning to think beyond making money. As a matter of fact, making money for a long period of time would not be feasible without considering social and environmental issues in any strategy for sustainability. During sustainability discussions, a lot of focus is placed on environmental issues with social components of sustainability being limited to volunteerism and philanthropy. The latter is usually taken care of by the traditional CSR sections of businesses. I talked about this and how the narrative can be changed here.
In another yet to be published article I am co-writing with a partner, I discussed the importance of human resource management towards driving sustainability. Workplace health and safety comes under the social component of sustainability or corporate sustainability as this case may be. People are critical to the success of any business. They are ones that drive business operations. Just as money is an importance resource, so are humans.
Going the extra mile
Certain industries have been identified with taking safety seriously – oil and gas, construction and manufacturing for obvious reasons such as company image and compliance. This would not be the case if safety as a value is part of their strategy for sustainability as a business. There is a need to go beyond compliance and see safety as a means to ensuring efficient operations irrespective of business size and type of operations.
Safety as a foundation for sustainable growth
According to Adam Werbach, the CEO of Saatchi and Saatchi S, the engagement of employees is important in a journey towards sustainability. The chief executive or the human resource manager cannot do it alone. Only a safe and healthy workforce can perform their duties efficiently. Safety is also about eliminating waste – waste of time, human effort and profit that is lost as a result of accident and illnesses. The sustainable growth of a business cannot be achieved with inefficiencies.
The SDGs and Worker Health and Safety
Out of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals that came into force officially in January 2016, goals 8 and 12 have direct and indirect links with the welfare of workers as has been highlighted below:
#8: Decent Work and Economic Growth
- Protect labour rights and promote safe and secure working environments for all workers, including migrant workers, in particular women migrants, and those in precarious employment.
- Take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms
- By 2030, achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, including for young people and persons with disabilities, and equal pay for work of equal value
#12: Responsible Consumption and Production
- By 2020, achieve the environmentally sound management of chemicals and all wastes throughout their life cycle, in accordance with agreed international frameworks, and significantly reduce their release to air, water and soil in order to minimize their adverse impacts on human health and the environment
- Encourage companies, especially large and transnational companies, to adopt sustainable practices and to integrate sustainability information into their reporting cycle.
The way forward
Moving forward, any business no matter the size (had to reiterate the size because a lot of small business do not take employee safety very seriously), should gradually reassess their business strategies, seek professional help as to getting their lapses sorted out. Taking safety seriously is a way of retaining employees and making them happier to work with you. Every business wants to do more with less and eliminating the hidden costs of accidents and sick leaves is one sure way achieve that.
I am not promising that it is going to be a smooth ride but it is surely going to be worth it in the end.