Companies See Value in Broadening Sustainability Efforts - Pt 2

Worker Health

Strengthening Frameworks for Health and Safety

While companies assess how to integrate social sustainability into operations, it has been uncertain how these frameworks can link imperative to execution. While a company’s revenue, profit, and loss are quantitative benchmarks, the effectiveness of ESG initiatives has been subjective, and investors have pushed back on boilerplate and nonspecific language in company filings that tout commitment. There is also a large push for a standardized agreement on ESG benchmarks, with transparency and accountability similar to the FASB standards.

Definitions of sustainability have varied widely, leading investors to reach widely different conclusions about the same company’s performance. Companies also have struggled to effectively implement ESG systems and risk mitigation strategies across the supply chain, as they deal with outdated business models that focused more on production, costs, and earlier theories of workplace safety.

Yet concrete frameworks and standards are slowly emerging. The ISO 45001 framework, published in March 2018, advances far more expansive global standards to manage occupational health and safety risks. The framework replaces a management system standard that had been in effect since 1999, and goes further by proactively identifying potential risks and safeguards to minimize and eliminate unfavorable outcomes.⁵ Employers spend nearly $1 billion every week on direct workers’ compensation costs, according to the Department of Labor, but the social costs are more difficult to quantify.

The shift toward concrete, repeatable standards, with a broader focus, addresses this challenge. ISO 45001 emphasizes the “context of the organization,” extending internal health and safety concerns to the larger environment in which a business functions.⁶ And the emphasis on leadership commitment also relies on worker participation and communication.

This enlarged view of a company’s social footprint, across the supply chain, is bolstered by complementary concepts that have emerged over the past decade and a half. Total Worker Health®w and Prevention through Design build on occupational health and safety concerns by actively seeking to enhance workers’ well-being through innovative approaches to design and workplace environments. 

“In addition to protecting the environment and being  responsible consumers of our natural resources,  organizations are realizing we also need to be good  stewards of our human resources,” said John  Gambatese, an Oregon State University professor of  civil and construction engineering. 

“Total Worker Health and Prevention through Design are attractive concepts for addressing the sustainability of our workforce. TWH and PtD support organizations in their efforts to maintain a healthy and productive workforce, and to create a desirable, risk-free, and socially responsible work environment.” 

Collectively, these frameworks and concepts advance health and safety concerns beyond mere sentiment, or compliance, toward specific, verifiable practices underneath the larger ESG umbrella. 

Stay tuned for Pt 3 next week, or Click here to download the full article

⁵ ISO Update, “Differences Between ISO 45001 and OHSAS 18001,” Jan. 10, 2018,

⁶ Ibid