The Sustainable Health and Safety Journey: Prioritising People                                                       

In recent years, Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) factors have gained significant attention from investors, businesses, and society at large. ESG refers to the three key areas of sustainability that companies are evaluated on: environmental impact, social responsibility, and corporate governance.

While ESG has traditionally focused on environmental and governance issues, the social component, which encompasses occupational health and safety (H&S), has emerged as a critical aspect of sustainable business practices.

How does that work?

H&S refers to the policies, procedures, and practices that promote the physical, mental, and social wellbeing of colleagues in the workplace. This is not only a legal and ethical responsibility for businesses, but it also has a direct impact on employee well-being, productivity, and business performance.

The integration of H&S factors into ESG frameworks is crucial to create sustainable, responsible, and resilient operations that prioritise both people and the planet. One of the key aspects of the AfterAthena people services is employee safety. Ensuring that people have a safe and healthy work environment is fundamental to an individual’s wellbeing and is an essential human right.

What can organisations do?

Companies need to proactively identify and mitigate H&S risks in their operations, supply chains, products, and services. Promoting a safety culture that encourages employees to raise potential hazards without fear of retaliation.

Prioritising the physical and mental health of employees, through access to healthcare, mental health resources, and promoting work-life balance can help create a positive and inclusive work environment that upholds diversity, equity, and inclusion, and actively addresses issues such as harassment and discrimination.

The importance of colleague engagement and actively engaging with employees, in the decision-making processes, through various channels to voice their concerns and feedback, including providing avenues for reporting incidents, near-misses, and recommendations for improvement.

What about the wider impact?

We should all consider the social impact of our operations on local communities. This includes understanding and addressing the potential health and safety impacts on neighbouring communities, especially in industries such as manufacturing, and construction that may have significant environmental and health impacts.

Engaging with local communities, listening to their concerns, and implementing measures can help companies build trust and strengthen their social license to operate.

Occupational health risks can arise from exposure to hazardous substances, poor air quality, inadequate waste management, and other environmental factors. Therefore, companies need to integrate environmental impact assessments into their approach. This includes monitoring and managing air and water quality, handling hazardous materials safely, and promoting sustainable waste management practices.

Is there an impact of ignoring H&S within ESG?

The financial implications of H&S incidents, injuries, and illnesses can result in significant costs for companies, including medical expenses, compensation claims, legal liabilities, and reputational damage. Focusing on H&S can help reduce these costs, improve employee productivity and retention, and protect a company’s bottom line.

Investors are increasingly recognising the importance of H&S and considering the H&S performance as part of decision-making. A robust H&S system is seen as responsible and sustainable and potentially more attractive to investors and a long-term value proposition.

In conclusion, a people-focused service is crucial for companies to create sustainable, responsible, and resilient operations that prioritise the well-being of both employees and the environment.