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Shareholder Safety Concerns, Inclusive Leadership and Expanding Wildfires: What We’re Reading This Week

May 5, 2023
A look at some recent headlines focused on DEI, the environment, sustainability and climate change.

After days of cold, damp weather, the sun is shining and we can shrug off our winter coats. Living in the Midwest is always an adventure!

The good news is that most of the spring blooms have survived, including my favorite, lilacs. I love their sweet smell, and they’re always a helpful reminder that Mother’s Day is fast approaching. Speaking of which, I need to place my online order for a special delivery for mom, who I unfortunately won’t be seeing this weekend. I should also place a special delivery for another special lady in my life who has become like a second mother to me.

The older I get, the more I realize that the more love we have to give, the more we receive in return. I’m constantly amazed by how a simple text, phone call or letter from a faraway friend can bolster my day. It inspires me to make more of an effort, especially when I’m feeling overwhelmed or busy. Humans are social creatures, so it really shouldn’t surprise me that sharing a little of my burdens makes them lighter.

And while most of us aren’t trained mental health experts, it’s been my experience that keeping your mouth shut and just listening to someone else’s experiences can help make us better people. Furry friends are also wonderful listeners. Regardless of whatever you have planned, I hope you can make some time to listen or talk to someone. It seems that the world could use more of that these days.

Until next time, enjoy these pieces on how to help be better employees, bosses, citizens and stewards of the plant.

Shareholders' Concerned about Safety

I’m not an avid follower of shareholder meetings or really quarterly earnings reports, but this piece from Bloomberg caught my attention.

Jeff Green writes that investors have filed more than 140 shareholder resolutions this year on a number of employee-related issues at some of the nation’s largest companies. He writes that shareholders and companies have reached agreements on about a third of the requests, and much of the others will go to a vote.

“You can see more of these proposals focused on workers’ rights elevating,” said Nadira Narine, senior director of strategic initiatives at the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, to Bloomberg. “In order for us to really have an impact on worker health and safety, companies need to change the way they think about their business practices.”

Green characterizes this year’s proposals as different from the recent past, which were focused on diversity and racial audits, to issues that directly affect the worker, such as paid leave, safety and labor rights.

It seems, that businesses are starting to recognize, or at least are being forced to acknowledge, that safety is a form of risk management. What’s more, unsafe practices and policies are a liability.

This is nothing you don’t already know, dear reader, but given that safety has historically had a tough time getting a seat at the table. Now, it seems, safety and labor concerns at least have the ears of shareholders, and they can influence the C-suite. It may not be the most efficient route, but it seems like things could improve for workers. That’s something I think we can all support.

Read Green’s nuanced and well sourced article here.

How to be an Inclusive Leader

My mom is a fabulous cook, and she looks at the ingredient list to see if she’ll like the recipe. She says if she likes all the individual parts, she’ll like them combined. While true, I have tried some new recipes where something didn’t seem to come together nicely in the end.

And while Juliet Bourke and Andrea Titus didn’t use this analogy, it seems this is the case when it comes to inclusive leadership, too. They write: “But simply throwing a mix of people together doesn’t guarantee high performance; it requires inclusive leadership—leadership that assures that all team members feel they are treated respectfully and fairly, are valued and sense that they belong, and are confident and inspired.”

Their own research has found that inclusive leadership improves team performance, makes better decisions, works more collaboratively and improves work attendance.

At this point, you may be asking what makes an inclusive leader. Bourke and Titus have you covered there, too. They have identifying six distinguishable traits:

  • Visible commitment,
  • Humility,
  • Awareness of bias,
  • Curiosity about others,
  • Cultural intelligence and
  • Effective collaboration.

My biggest takeaway is that inclusive leadership doesn’t happen by accident. It is a skill that needs to be nurtured and developed. This also means that anyone who is willing and committed to doing the work can help create an environment where more people feel psychologically safe and free to be their authentic selves.

Read more about why these traits promote inclusivity and specific ways that you can be a more inclusive leader here.

Expanding Wildfire Region

For the past several years, wildfires have encroached upon more people, such as the Denver metro area, and the seasons have lasted longer, straining resources and manpower. But now they’re taking an unexpected turn, at least for those of us in the lower 48.

Last year, more than 4,844 square miles burned in Alaska last year. That’s an area just smaller than the size of Connecticut.

Specifically for residents in Anchorage, Alaska, a recent series of blazes and record-setting heat could spell major trouble. Urban development pushes up closer and closer to the forest, but there’s still only one road in and out. If there’s a fire, residents will have a tough time fleeing to safety—and emergency responders could have a tough time fighting the blaze.

“I’ve characterized this as probably the single largest threat to the municipality of Anchorage,” said Anchorage Fire Chief Doug Schrage to the Associated Press.

I live in an area where 90 degrees Fahrenheit is common in summer, but that’s Anchorages hottest day on record, and it reached that four years ago. Climate scientists and reports keep sounding the alarms that unless all nations make big changes—now—we are at risk of the catastrophic consequences if the planet warms above 2 degrees Celsius.

Read the story here.  

About the Author

Nicole Stempak

Nicole Stempak is managing editor of EHS Today and conference content manager of the Safety Leadership Conference.

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