This year’s impressive list of finalists for the Director of the Year corporate responsibility category exemplifies the strides made in business in shaping a more responsible, sustainable world of work.
Increasingly, companies see their prospects inextricably linked to the well-being of their workers, communities and the planet, or, as the United Nations puts it, delivering ‘long-term value in financial, environmental, social and ethical terms’.
Three years ago, the UN’s General Assembly adopted the resolution Transforming our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable development, which contained 17 goals. Among them, was a call to action on the responsible, sustainable employment of people.
The UN wants to ‘promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all’.
This was encouraging because all too often in the CSR and sustainability debate, the long-term approach to employing people is forgotten. Whilst environmental benefits are measurable and enable the avoidance of costs, for example CO2 reduction, the contribution workplace safety and health plays in delivering societal sustainability and enabling ethical and financial sustainability is often seen as intangible.
Earlier this year, at the IoD’s Open House event, IOSH published a report called The healthy profit. It highlighted how a proactive and proportionate safety and health strategy could both improve an organisation’s social sustainability and drive its financial sustainability – the International Social Security Association estimates a €2.20 dividend for every one euro invested in safety and health.
And it emphasised that, in the face of a host of commercial and regulatory pressures, transparent reporting is seen as a prerequisite for many investment funds, and businesses are now reporting on social performance and specifically on metrics for workplace health and safety. An IOSH survey of 500 business leaders found that four out of five medium to large enterprises now include such metrics in annual reports and reports to stakeholders.
For our part, IOSH, both directly and indirectly through its involvement with the Center for Safety and Health Sustainability, has supported the UN-sponsored Global Reporting Initiative in creating a reporting model for the future. This should enable responsible businesses to become sustainable through attracting investors.
There is still progress to be made towards corporate social responsibility and sustainability if the UN is to achieve many of its goals on both planet and people. However, encouragingly, many in business haven’t needed a UN resolution to come to the conclusion that they needed to operate responsibly. They are finding the benefits of CSR and sustainability are manifold, from improved brand recognition and reputation to better financial performance and the ability to attract and retain the best talent.
If the onus is on national governments to develop ‘practicable, ambitious national responses’ to the UN’s ambitious plans, their success will rely heavily on the decisions made by business leaders, as both producers and employers.
This year’s IoD Director of the Year Awards CSR category finalists are among companies leading the way as responsible, sustainable employers, and IOSH is delighted to support the IoD in giving them the recognition they deserve.
Richard Orton, Director of Strategy and Business Development, IOSH, and board member of the Center for Safety and Health Sustainability.