How can a company report double-digit fatalities in a 1-year period but still be listed as one of the world's most sustainable companies?

Crucial Gaps Allow Company Reporting 49 Fatalities to be Named to Most Sustainable List

Feb. 11, 2013
A study released by the Center for Safety and Health Sustainability revealed troublesome gaps and a lack of transparency in occupational safety and health (OSH) sustainability reporting among organizations rated highly for sustainability performance.

Most people would agree that a company’s most sustainable resource should be its employees, however a new study – Current Practices in Occupational Health and Safety Sustainability Reporting – reveals that five organizations listed on the Corporate Knights’ 2011 Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations in the World reported more than 10 work-related fatalities in a year – with one organization reporting 49 in a year while another reported 70 worker deaths in a 3-year period (2010-2012).

“It’s hard to believe that organizations can report double‐digit fatalities and still be on a list of the 100 most sustainable companies,” said Steve Granger, the UK-based director of the Center for Safety and Health Sustainability (CSHS), which released the study. “Clearly, the methodology for rating sustainability performance must be overhauled.”

The study examines public data on occupational safety and health reporting practices from the organizations listed on the Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations list. The majority of the corporations did not include metrics recommended by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), one of the most comprehensive sustainability reporting frameworks available. Nor did the majority include metrics recognized as important by CSHS and the international OSH professional community.

Researchers further concluded that even when relevant information is reported, corporate OSH performance is difficult to interpret, compare and analyze due to a lack of uniformity in data collection and clarity over reporting methods and metrics.

“Our research showed, for example, that the companies surveyed used six different formulas to calculate injury rate overall and at least 15 different methods were used to define ‘a report‐worthy injury or incident,’” said CSHS Chair Tom Cecich.

“The objectives of sustainability reporting are not achieved simply by disclosing information. The information disclosed must also be meaningful,” he added.

According to Cecich, current OSH sustainability reporting practices make it difficult for stakeholders and investors to understand and evaluate the extent of an organization’s commitment to OSH management. “It also makes it difficult for an organization to improve awareness of its own performance, better understand necessary improvements, compare itself to competitors and gauge performance improvement over time,” Cecich noted.

CSHS recommends that GRI and other sustainability reporting frameworks better promote the importance of OSH as a major indicator of an organization’s overall sustainability and adopt OSH performance indicators that meet the following criteria:

  • Well‐defined and standardized terms and definitions that allow for accurately evaluating an organization’s performance across different sectors and geographies.
  • Standardized data collection methodology that allows stakeholders to easily compare safety performance across and among organizations.
  • The reporting of leading indicators, allowing stakeholders insight into whether corporations are taking meaningful actions to improve OSH performance.
  • Information reported over multiple years (e.g., 5 years historical information) enabling internal and external stakeholders to gauge improvement and compare performance to other organizations over time.
  • An extended scope of coverage that includes OSH reporting for contingent workers (including temporary contract and subcontractor workers) as well as workers in the supply chain, growing and highly vulnerable segments of the global work force frequently left out of OSH reports.

The Center for Safety and Health Sustainability (CSHS), established in 2010, is a 501(c)(3) not‐for‐profit organization committed to advancing the safety and health sustainability of the global workplace. A collaborative effort founded by the American Industrial Hygiene Association, the American Society of Safety Engineers, and the Institution for Occupational Safety and Health, CSHS represents over 85,000 workplace safety and health professionals worldwide.

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