Recent years have seen the widespread adoption of more comprehensive workplace policies, where issues like health and safety, environmental impact and sustainability, diversity and inclusion, and other factors are combined into a single set of governance principles. Let’s learn more about new frameworks for thinking about health, safety, and governance. 

How is Occupational Health Connected to Environmental Impact?

More and more companies and organizations are tying Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) into larger policy frameworks linked to sustainability and environmental impact. Traditionally, these two policy areas have not been related, and companies have focused on separate metrics for each subject area. However, occupational safety is directly related to all aspects of corporate social responsibility, with specific impact in these policy areas:

  • An aging workforce. The number of people over the age of 74 in the workforce is projected to increase by 96.5% by 2030. Older employees are at greater risk for physical and social harms in unsafe work environments, increasing health risks exacerbated by unsustainable practices. 
  • Warming climate increases workplace hazards. The increase of extreme weather and environmental hazards poses serious risks to worker health and safety. In the US, extreme heat alone is projected to cost nearly $2B in lost labor hours by 2090, particularly affecting the agriculture, construction, and fire service industry, as well as employees who work in kitchens or bakeries. 
  • Investment and shareholder outcomes. More and more investors are seeking companies that demonstrate leadership and responsibility in corporate governance and social responsibility. Employee physical, mental, and emotional health is an important aspect of the work environment, creating a more positive profile and reducing risk for investors. 

Integrating measurement, analysis, and reporting of employee wellbeing along with environmental impact is a natural progression of effective leadership. According to the National Safety Council: 

“Safety and health are critical to a sustained and sustainable workforce and have direct impacts on businesses’ bottom lines. As such, they should be integrated into existing sustainability frameworks, programming, and reporting. Such steps elevate the important role of the worker in sustaining workplaces, provide mechanisms for ensuring safe and healthy workplaces, bring human and worker rights and value to conceptions of sustainability, and realize the distinct connection between worker health and environmental externalities and outcomes.” source

New Tools and Standards for Safety and Sustainability

As these policy areas are increasingly integrated, a number of organizations provide new tools and frameworks across a wide range of industries. Here are some of the new, integrated frameworks being adopted around the world. 

  • UN Sustainable Development Goals. The 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) include climate action, gender equality, good health, economic growth, and sustainable communities within their framework. Every year since 2016 the UN has produced the SDG Progress Report, and the UN Department of Department of Economic and Social Affairs provides support and capacity building for sustainable development. 
  • Coalition for Inclusive Capitalism. The Coalition for Inclusive Capitalism has developed a framework that seeks to treat all workers as deserving of human rights, safeguard workers from economic dislocation, increase public investment in R&D, and eradicate discriminatory policies and practices. Improving worker safety increases retention, promotes investment, and creates economic opportunity. 
  • Global Reporting Initiative. The GRI has a complete set of sustainability reporting standards for over 40 sectors. These sector standards are built on their Universal Standards, but identify each sector’s most significant impacts, creating context and disclosures relevant for each industry. The offer robust support programs for public policy, education, and implementation. 
  • International Organization for Standardization. The ISO is arguably the most important standardization organization in the world. A number of ISO standards integrate employee health, environmental impact, and good corporate governance, including ISO 45001:2018. ISO 14001:2015 and ISO 26000:2010,
  • LEED. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design is a standard developed by the non-profit US Green Building Council, and is one of the most recognized sustainability standards in the world. LEED offers certification credits for social equity within the supply chain, and the LEED Prevention Through Design Program supports employee health and safety outcomes throughout the building life-cycle. 

In addition to these, corporate leaders can find standards that include sustainability along with health and safety in organizations like the International Labor Organization (ILO), the Sustainable Accounting Standards Board (SASB), and the UN Global Compact.

These newer frameworks allow organizations to integrate, measure, and improve across a spectrum of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) metrics. With such a wealth of programs, tools, and standards, businesses of all sizes in every sector have a fantastic opportunity to step into a new phase of social accountability, corporate transparency, and industry leadership. Grapefrute supports these integrated, forward-looking workplaces with world-leading talent and recruitment.