Organisations cannot be sustainable in the current world of work without committing to protecting the safety, health and wellbeing of their most vital resource: workers. Socially sustainable organisations are those that recognise and prioritise the adoption of a holistic person-centred approach to everything they do. They recognise the value of their workers, treat them as an asset and invest in them. This includes the creation of conditions to promote decent work for their workers – their human capital – which underpins corporate performance and sustainability.
A human-centred purpose embraces the interplay of social sustainability, thoughtful human capital management and a comprehensive set of employee safety, health and wellbeing practices. Companies driven by this approach are more capable of producing lasting value, profit, stronger performance, growth and sustainable workforces.
- The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – including SDG 8 on decent work – recognise the importance of human capital in building a fairer, more sustainable and resilient world of work.
- The United Nations Global Compact initiative is the largest corporate sustainability initiative in the world, with more than 9,500 companies and 3,000 non-business signatories based in over 160 countries, and more than 60 Local Networks.
- BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, in its 2020 Engagement priorities outlines how boards need to oversee human capital management strategies.
- In October 2022, IOSH commissioned BF Media to survey over 2,000 workers and more than 500 line managers and senior leaders in the UK to gauge how people feel at work and whether this matches with how those in management view it.
- Of employees who responded to the IOSH survey, 44% don’t trust their employer has their safety and health in mind while 39% don’t feel their work is generally supportive of their physical and mental health. Only 61% of employees are giving their best at work and just over half (52%) feel a sense of loyalty to their employer
- Other survey results include nearly half of employees (49%) don’t feel appreciated for who they are and the work they do and around two-thirds (66%) don’t feel listened to, look after and motivated.
About two in five UK workers don’t trust that their employers have their safety and health in mind, nor do they feel their work is supportive of their physical and mental health.
This is a huge wake-up call for employers. Organisations cannot be sustainable without protecting the safety, health and wellbeing of their workers. Socially sustainable organisations are those that prioritise the adoption of a person-centred approach to everything they do. They treat employees as an asset and create the conditions to promote decent work, where human capital underpins corporate performance and sustainability.
Sadly, many workers do not believe this is happening in their work. There is a correlation between employees feeling they aren’t looked after at work and them not giving their best or feeling loyalty toward their employers. In this period of major uncertainty, now is the time for employers to step up, invest in their workforce and demonstrate that looking after their workers is key to them, showing they value them and the work they do. Failure to do so will have an impact on how sustainable a business is.
IOSH believes that social sustainability is the backbone of resilience, and that occupational safety and health is fundamental to building and maintaining work, workforces, supply chains and communities that are all sustainable for the future. Businesses should put people first and recognise the value of their workers. For that reason, IOSH encourages businesses to adopt forward-looking, long-term strategies and broader measures of social sustainability and human capital value. They should adopt enhanced disclosure and reporting frameworks, to assess the value of the workforce and achieve better corporate human capital performance.
In addition, global corporate interest in the strategic linkage between occupational safety and health and human capital management has gained traction in recent years. There is an impetus from key stakeholders – capital markets, civil society, employers, occupational safety and health and human resources professional bodies – in social responsibility issues.
Occupational safety and health professionals play a crucial role in helping organisations to create reporting and learning cultures in which prevention lessons are learned. They are best placed to work across the business to support social sustainable practices and OSH performance evaluation and reporting.
Businesses need to take this seriously now, or risk falling behind.
Our statement of intent
IOSH commits to operating sustainably in the ways we do our business. Applying those values and behaviours to what we do and how we do it supports our shared vision of realising a safer and healthier world of work for everyone.
Guides and online tools:
- ICGN Viewpoint: OSH: Then pandemic, the changing world of work and how investment stewards can engage to enhance corporate performance.
- IOSH’s Competency framework: OSH professionals should proactively scan the external market relevant to their organisation for unexpected and emerging risks and assess their potential impact.
- IOSH, as a co-founder of the Center for Safety & Health Sustainability, promotes improved and standardised OSH metrics in combined reports (see CSHS guides Current Practices in OHS Sustainability Reporting and CSHS Best Practice Guide for OHS in Sustainability Reports).
- IOSH, together with other world-leading organisations, has joined experts in the fields of human capital, sustainability and OSH in signing a new commitment to position OSH and wellbeing at the centre of the sustainable business agenda.
- IOSH’s Corporate Governance course explores ways in which OSH can be integrated into an organisation’s existing corporate governance arrangements.
- Review of the Non-Financial Reporting Directive, European Commission, 2020.
- Non-Financial Reporting Directive: a call for views on effective reporting alongside proposals to implement EU requirements (PDF 393KB), UK Department for Business Innovation and Skills, 2016.
- Consultation on Non-binding guidelines for reporting of non-financial information by companies (PDF 141KB), European Commission, 2016.
- The Accounting Revolution and the New Sustainability: implications for the OSH profession (PDF 6.7MB), Center for Safety & Health Sustainability, 2015.
- Tackling exploitation in the labour market (PDF 371KB), UK Home Office / BIS, 2015.
- Modern slavery and supply chains (PDF 371KB), UK Home Office, 2015.
- The European Commission’s strategy on CSR 2011-14: achievements, shortcomings and future challenges (PDF 446KB), European Commission, 2014.
- The future of narrative reporting – a consultation(PDF 73KB), UK Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, 2010.
- Leading health and safety at work actions and good practice for board members(PDF 37KB), Institute of Directors/Health and Safety Commission, 2007.
- Draft Regulations on the Operating and Financial review and Directors’ report(PDF 1,42KB), UK Department of Trade and Industry, 2004.
- The Operating and Financial Review (OFR) Working Group on Materiality(PDF 1,14KB), Department of Trade and Industry, 2003.