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How Safety Leaders Can Start the Sustainability Discussion

This is an excerpt from the white paper Sustainability and Safety: 6 ways HSE leaders can help their organizations “do good”.

Over the past 30 years, HSE leaders have guided their organizations through a remarkable transformation. What was once a practice focused largely on regulatory compliance and crisis response has evolved into a strategic function that now helps guide operational excellence. Today, many organizations not only enjoy record low injury rates and greater safety literacy across employees at every level, they also have learned to “bake” safety into work practices and systems and detect changes in risk before they create events in a way that protects the workforce and the community while also delivering greater profitability. At the highest levels, HSE leaders have become experts at change.

As business becomes more interconnected, global environmental and social issues will increasingly affect an organization’s ability to operate. Left unchecked, these issues can pose an existential threat to the enterprise unlike anything traditional management models have accounted for. Whether they recognize it or not, organizations are in need of expertise that can guide the development of sustainability practice and strategy. HSE leaders play a special role in guiding that discussion as they have done while helping to transform safety from a priority into a core value for many leading organizations.

Depending on the circumstances, HSE leaders may need to:

  • Start the sustainability discussion in the first place – While many organizations have some sort of approach, many do not. HSE leaders have experience in identifying and describing threats to the business and can help make a credible case for taking action.
  • Deepen the discussion – Many organizations that do have sustainability efforts may find them anemic or just plain underdeveloped. For example, consider the company promoting a “green energy” policy that makes a token gesture at recycling among its office staff while failing to identify or address the much bigger problem of emissions created by its fleet of trucks. HSE leaders, with their experience in risk assessment and resource management, can help guide a deeper discussion about the sustainability goal and how to achieve it.
  • Guide the development and integration of sustainability – Even in those organizations with a well-articulated sustainability strategy, execution can be challenging. HSE leaders are ideally suited to supporting general management in the development and integration of sustainability into policy, strategy, plans, and objectives.

To learn more, download the Sustainability and Safety white paper.

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Guest December 22, 2014