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Safety Management Insights

Make the Case for Sustainability at Work for Now and the Future

Posted by Don Brown on May 30, 2017 9:00:00 AM

workers accountable safety managementAre you pushing for greater sustainability within your organization? To some, the word is all but synonymous with environmentalism, but environmental concerns are just one facet of a sustainable business. In fact, according to OSHA, “employers are only truly sustainable when they ensure the safety, health and welfare of their workers.”

Conducting business sustainably is a matter of meeting present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to do the same. Not just an idealist notion, this is a sound goal for any company. After all, no business can sustain for long a path that compromises its own personnel, resources or environment — now or in the future. While some sustainable initiatives require upfront investments, their ultimate effect is to provide for ongoing growth and success — a goal any executive can support.

So, to make the case for sustainability at work, you need to address the following questions: Which processes and procedures cannot continue as they are, and how should we change them to be more viable in the future? As you make the case, keep those questions — and the following considerations — in mind.

Protecting the Environment

From cutting carbon emissions to buying energy-efficient appliances, many “green” initiatives have bottom-line benefits. In fact, a study by the International Finance Corporation showed that companies with strong environmental performance saw significantly greater financial gains than companies with poor environmental performance. That same study also cited a McKinsey Survey in which 76 percent of CEOs said sustainability performance contributes positively to their businesses in the long-term.

For many companies, increasing energy efficiency is the best way to protect the environment while widening profit margins. Commercial buildings are notoriously inefficient, for instance, and most businesses stand to save a bundle by replacing windows, insulation and HVAC systems with more energy-efficient alternatives. Depending on your line of business, it might also pay to invest in more efficient machinery and vehicles. When you’re trying to justify the costs, remember that over the long-term, newer equipment may also incur fewer maintenance and repair costs.

Seemingly smaller changes also can help tremendously over time. Going paperless is a prominent example. Many companies have ditched hard copies and snail mail, but U.S. businesses still waste $8 billion per year managing paper documents. Digitization not only could save your company money on time and materials, but it could make your workers safer. Safety software takes critical information out of your file cabinets and puts it at your fingertips, allowing you to make faster, more effective changes to your safety program.

Sustainability and Safety

A safe workforce is a sustainable workforce, and a company that protects its employees will be able to hire and retain more talented, hard-working people. And, just like green initiatives, a push for greater worker safety is a cost-cutter in the long run. Workers’ compensation already is one of the biggest costs for many employers, and that figure doesn’t take into account the significant indirect costs of most injuries and illnesses.

In fact, Stanford University’s Department of Civil Engineering conducted a study that showed indirect costs were even greater than direct costs. Indirect costs include wages not covered by workers’ compensation, work stoppage, overtime, administrative work and the costs of hiring temporary and replacement workers, just to name a few.

If you’re struggling to gain buy-in and financial support for your safety initiatives, relate your plans to the company’s long-term goals and sustainability. Incidents will only become more expensive as healthcare costs rise, and making positive changes in the short term will lead to lower costs and a more productive workforce in the long term.

The Bottom Line

Improving safety and protecting the environment aren’t just important for their cost-cutting benefits. More and more, investors are prioritizing sustainability and companies that don’t make the cut may not receive enough funding to grow. The IFC’s sustainability study investigated the key drivers for socially responsible investing and environmental and social evaluation ranked right behind financial returns. Simply put, businesses must invest in their environments, communities and personnel to thrive in today’s economy.

Want to learn how you can cost-effectively improve safety and sustainability in your organization? Contact us today for a demonstration of our comprehensive, award-winning safety software suite.

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