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Safety 2013: Understanding the Business Value of Safety and Sustainability

Safety 2013: Understanding the Business Value of Safety and Sustainability

EHS professionals who work to align their organization’s safety and health initiatives with existing sustainability strategies can help create value for their company’s overall workplace safety and health objectives.


How do you define sustainability? Is it grounded in responsible environmental practices, the protection of the environment and resources? Or is it something more?

Increasingly, sustainability has come to represent not only responsible environmental practices, but also responsible social practices, such as providing a safe workplace for employees. Darryl C. Hill, Ph.D., CSP, executive director of global corporate safety and health for Johnson Controls, and Kathy A. Seabrook, CSP, CMIOSH (UK), EurOSHM, of Global Solutions Inc., told a session at Safety 2013 that sustainability is not a “trend;” it’s becoming a business practice driven by the investment community.

According to Hill and Seabrook, sustainable business practices can make a business and brand better and more profitable. A study by the Aberdeen Group shared by Hill and Seabrook, asked respondents who had responsibility for sustainability strategies at their company. Nearly two-thirds of respondents (71 percent) said that responsibility is assigned to EHS.

According to statistics presented by Hill and Seabrook from a UN study published in 2010, 93 percent of CEOs believe sustainability is crucial to the future success of their companies. Ninety-six percent believe that sustainability must be integrated into the company strategy.

“I’m confident we can all agree about the impact of sustainability to the C-suite,” said Hill.

In an article published in the June issue of Professional Safety, Hill and Seabrook wrote, “Executives are increasingly recognizing that long-term economic growth is not possible unless that growth is socially and environmentally sustainable. Striving for balance among economic progress, social responsibility and environmental protection, usually referred to as the ‘triple bottom line’ approach, can contribute to improving an organization’s competitive advantage.”

Role of Safety in Sustainability

According to Seabrook, EHS and sustainability have similar objectives, such as:

  • Eliminating incidents, waste and overall losses
  • Improving operational excellence
  • Conducting business in a way that protects “people, planet, profit and principles.”

Safety is moving “beyond sustainability,” said Seabrook, who offered several examples of how the involvement of EHS professionals and have enhanced a company’s sustainability efforts and initiatives. Seabrook noted that socially responsible investing (SRI) now accounts for $2.71 trillion of the $25.1 trillion (12 percent) of the total invested in the American marketplace.

Among the groups highlighted by Seabrook was Wood Group – an international energy services company with $6 billion in revenues – and its CEO, Robert Keiller, who told her, “Safety and assurance is our top priority; it supports the business. It is in our DNA.” The company includes safety as one of its core values, and Wood Group focuses not only on the safety of its employees, but also on the safety of everything they design, construct, operate and maintain.

Wood Group implemented a Safety Leadership Program in 2011 which focused on raising the HSE awareness of corporate leaders and their role in delivering safety performance. The training emphasized the importance of getting the balance right between managing EHS and major accident risks. All board and management leaders worldwide have gone through the program and by the end of 2012, some 1,200 managers will have taken part in this. The 2013 objective is to develop and embed a suitable training program to incorporate all senior leaders throughout the organization.


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