Organisations around the world are being urged to harness the wave of social change by putting the needs and welfare of their workers first.
The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) says the Covid-19 pandemic, the rise of social justice movements, and emerging global crises mean there is now more focus than ever on how businesses treat their workers, with investors and consumers paying close attention to how they make profit.
IOSH’s new global campaign on social sustainability, Catch the Wave, encourages business leaders to improve the social sustainability and long-term prosperity of their own businesses – as well as help build stronger, more sustainable communities around the globe.
IOSH Chief Executive Vanessa Harwood-Whitcher said those with a stake in business are “no longer interested solely in how it makes profit.”
“They want to understand how its profit-making affects people and the environment. They want to know how sustainable it is,” she said.
“Before they invest in a business, investors want assurance that it has a long-term plan for managing the skills, knowledge and experience that are integral to a sustainable business model. This can’t be captured in financial metrics alone.”
“And we know consumers are watching too. Increasingly, they seek reassurance that the products they buy have been made in good working conditions and by people who are treated and paid well.”
IOSH says the occupational safety and health profession is irrevocably linked to social sustainability. And by viewing everything through a health and safety lens, a business can not only manage the risks to its workforce but also secure its long-term prosperity.
“When discussing the corporate sustainability agenda, the environment has long been the central concern. But the time has come to put people alongside planet and profit, to unlock and unleash the tremendous value that lies in a business’s workforce,” Harwood-Whitcher said.
“Businesses which set high standards for the treatment of their workforce, communities and supply chains are reaping the rewards with stronger performance and growth. This is no coincidence. Social sustainability is the backbone of resilience.”
“We are calling on every business and organisation to join this global movement and demonstrate to their people, their customers and investors that they are taking social sustainability seriously. Essentially, they can catch the wave with IOSH – or risk getting left behind.”
Sustainability expert John Elkington said businesses with stronger sustainability practices have stronger operational performance and cashflow, and benefit from a “more committed and more productive” workforce.
“Done right, this can help business leaders – and tomorrow’s leading businesses – to deliver on the social components of their sustainability goals.”
“Truly regenerative capitalism starts with people – and all of us are likely to be more committed and more productive if we know that our safety, health and environmental concerns are being tackled in a timely and effective manner.”
Several leading businesses have backed IOSH’s campaign, including global information and communication technology firm Fujitsu.
Paul Brown, Head of Shared Services at Fujitsu, said the company prides itself on creating a culture which is intolerant of accidents, incidents and poor safety performance, despite having a diverse and geographically widespread workforce.
“Quite simply, the business recognises that to be successful it must ensure looking after its people is central to everything it does. As well as providing and maintaining a safe and comfortable working environment for all employees, promoting employee mental and physical health is also key,” he said.
“We have been working for quite some time to foster a culture that positively manifests occupational health and safety in the workplace. As part of this, we want everyone to feel accepted, nurtured and like they have an equal place within the organisation – because that’s how talent thrives and succeeds.”
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