Putting people back into sustainability

L’Oréal were pleased to host in Paris the 4th Global Summit and Workshop of the Center for Safety and Health Sustainability (CSHS or the Center*). The tagline of the Global Summit was “Putting People back into Sustainability”, which is an important concept as for me, many companies don’t look at people who work for them in their sites and their sustainability. When sustainability first appeared, it included EH&S, but over the years, primarily due to the pressure from rating companies and investors, this has deviated to mean environment and CSR.

Hosting this first ever global event outside of North America was important to L’Oréal on this future-critical topic. We often hear companies say that people are their greatest asset, yet they can only talk about lagging health and safety indicators and very rarely disclose meaningful information, if at all.

Disclosure is key, as is having common definitions for both leading and lagging indicators. L’Oréal benchmark on health and safety with many multinational companies that have each developed their own definitions, and though the fundamentals are often the same, the details are not – some report on a lost time from three days, others include or exclude time not at work, some exclude ergonomics and others illnesses, etc. Lagging indicators are developed internally by individual companies, and here benchmarking is almost impossible. Consequently, we can’t really benchmark on leading or lagging indicators unless there is a change in the indicator, and then we can ask: why the change? If disclosure of health and safety indicators is going to work then we need to have a common set of definitions.

The CSHS Summit and Workshop brought over 80 investors, business and reporting organisations together to discuss how they manage health and safety performance data/metrics and what they do with them. The main function of The Center is to provide thought leadership in this area of occupational health and safety, and where it fits into the sustainability agenda.

Stakeholders present included CDP, BNP Paribas, RoSPA, AFNOR, Google, Danone, P&G, Nike, ABF, AkzoNobel, PMI, Michelin, Ecovadis, and ABB to name but a few.

The keynote speaker was Paul Dickinson, CEO of CDP, whose main message was that if you want to make changes in this area it will be through the corporations, and not through regulations. This I am totally aligned with, and if we look at the evidence of changes made in the environmental area it is largely business and individuals taking the lead.

For me, the main take homes from the event were:

  1. There needs to be more disclosure on health and safety performance metrics – many companies don’t disclose and definitions are not standardised
  2. The investor, disclosure and corporations need to work together to define what health and safety looks like within sustainability
  3. Through the corporations and future health and safety professionals, we can change the way the people and their health and safety are addressed in the sustainability agenda.

The Center, supported by L’Oréal, will develop a strategic framework in collaboration with stakeholders to address these points, and will come back to the workshop participants with their proposals and concrete action plans as they drive the agenda to put people and health and safety at work back into sustainability. At L’Oréal, we see our participation in The Center as a way of reaching many other companies and having an impact on the way they see human sustainability.

However for us it doesn’t stop there – our recent initiative, Safe@Work-Safe@Home, is designed to take health and safety to the next level by taking what we learn in the workplace, outside of work. The program has no KPIs, no roadmap, no rules, except to share and keep our families healthy and safe. It’s a tall order, and the global program, which is in its third year, has the full backing of the L’Oréal Executive Committee and our CEO. We have local initiatives, guided by RoSPA, across the world, ranging from fire prevention to helping educate young parents in Brazil and China of household risk.

Together we can change the world and I truly believe this. At the end it’s all about people, people people.

* The Center was founded in 2011 by ASSP, CSSE, IOSH and AIHA who represent over 100,000 health and safety professionals across the world  http://centershs.org/

Malcolm Staves, Corporate H&S Director, L’Oréal

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