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May 15, 2023

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EHS Congress

‘It’s now all about putting people back on the right track’: SHP speaks to Malcom Staves, Global VP of HS at L’Oréal

Ahead of EHS Congress, taking place at the Estrel Congress Center in Berlin at the end of this month, SHP catches up with Malcolm Staves, Global Vice President Health & Safety at L’Oréal. His controversial approach to leadership is disagreed with by some, but Malcolm is clear on his direction.

Tell us a little about your background and how you got into safety….

L’Oréal Global VP Health and Safety Malcolm Staves

I’m actually a chemical engineer by background. I worked in production for many, many years and ended up working in the environment. In 1996 I took my company through their first ISO 14001 for environmental management systems. As a result, they asked me if I could do the same for safety – so I did and that’s how I got into safety. I have never looked back!

What do you believe is a top priority in the world of health and safety right now?

Making sure that we maintain a level of health and safety culture and as a consequence, performance in today’s ever connected VUCA world – volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous.
Our challenge is that distress in the market is increasing – there’s been the Ukraine war, issues with China, COVID and the cost of living and inflation – in these situations, it’s easy to lose focus on what matters.
All these things are going on at the same time, people are preoccupied with a million and one things. It is easy for health and safety to be put on the back burner.
My focus at the moment is trying to make sure that I accompany the growth of the business and everything we’re trying to do for the environment with all the pressures and stresses that people bring to work – how can I adapt in order to keep them healthy and safe?
For me, it’s a lot about resetting and making sure that our foundations of risk management are solid. If your risk foundation of protecting people is crumbling that this needs to be the priority.

What changes do you see coming in the world of health and safety?

Firstly it’s the continuation of making sure the foundations that we’ve spent years and years building pre-COVID remain solid or are put back on track.

During COVID, rightfully so, most companies focused on COVID and protecting their employees, working from home, etc. Some methodologies, processes and habits were deviated from, even doing something simple like a risk assessment or safety walk – a lot went out the window. It’s now all about putting people back on the right track.

Another challenge we’re facing is talent management.
We’re finding that the market for health and safety professionals has changed. The talent pool is very strained so within L’Oréal my focus is developing a talent management system, identifying what we need and how we develop and manage that talent so that we create the health and safety professionals we need for today and the future.

On top of that, I also want to change the way health and safety professionals are viewed – they’re talking to operators, cleaners, contractors, senior management, CEOs, local authorities, external benchmarks – they are leaders in their own right. I don’t know another profession that has a wider role of influence than ours. We need to be recognised as a profession of leaders that can be senior managers and why not, CEOs within industry.
As part of being “future fit” we need professionals with more empathy, more collaboration, more team working, more active listening skills – and as a consequence, we have to develop our profession to meet this future need.
And this goes for L’Oréal too, I want my health and safety professionals to be coaches and mentors, mentoring line management, not just telling them what to do.
We also need to be as diverse and inclusive as the population we serve to protect.

What is L’Oréal’s approach to health and safety, and why?

Our overall foundation is risk management, excellence and beyond. So you make sure your risk management is good, you then drive towards excellence and then you go beyond excellence.
To my knowledge we are the only company in the world that has, for the last 15 years, been working on cultural transformation using a defined strategy.

We do not expect anybody to work safely only for L’Oréal – then they are potentially working safely to avoid being a statistic.

We have changed the conversation dynamics to the why and the sense of purpose and the need to work safely for themselves and for their families so they can spend time outside of work being with the people they love doing what they love to do. Our Safe@Work-Safe@Home initiative is designed to export our learning and culture at work to our families and local communities. Their sense of purpose and why becomes spending time with their family, playing football, going horseriding… Through this initiative plus our participation in the RoSPA awards we are also creating pride in working for L’Oréal as they feel their health and safety is at the heart and centre of what we do. We find this develop health and safety ambassadors both @work and @home..

You don’t like to talk about ‘safety leadership’. Why not?

I believe in leadership but that as a leader you don’t select the subject. I believe in leadership of the whole, I don’t think a focus on my safety leadership is right, you need to develop a more holistic leadership approach.
At L’Oréal we have a senior leadership training programme where current and future senior leaders are trained in heuristics, emotional intelligence, mental health, stress management as well as other leadership topics and we link it to how to lead health & safety. It’s all about leadership and leadership of the whole.

What are you most looking forward to about attending EHS Congress, in Berlin, in May?

For me, it’s all about the networking. It has the best gathering of EHS professionals I know in Europe and the topics are always very interesting. So a good opportunity to network and learn from peers.

When we’re together, we exchange, we talk, we challenge, we disagree and we learn.

I find also there is a culture of sharing amongst the EHS professionals that attend. Last year I shared our culture transformation roadmap and many shared information from me. This is the way we learn about best practices and take away ideas to implement in our companies. – we are stronger together as professionals if we share what works and what doesn’t work. Its doesn’t get any better than this for me!

You will be speaking at EHS Congress too, what can delegates expect from your session?

I’m going to be talking about ESG – environment, social and governance – with Kathy Seabrook from New York. We will talk about the role of the health and safety professional within the ESG and sustainability agenda.
We are doing it a bit upside down as we will have a workshop first, we are going to have debates and find out what people think about where health and safety fits, what the role is on the ESG sustainability agenda – sometimes it’s at a very high level within organisations and sometimes it’s seen as a marketing opportunity as well.
We are going to explore what the situation is and what else can be done – then when we have that feedback from the professional delegates, we’re going to summarise and bring it all together the next day on a presentation.

Normally you would expect the presentation then the workshop, but we decided to do it differently so we can actually utilise the people there and all the collective intelligence – we want a bottom – up kind of discussion.

Hear more from Malcolm Staves at the 2023 EHS Congress, taking place in Berlin from 24-25 May.

Click to register for your place and to see the full EHS Congress agenda.

Click here for more from EHS Congress on SHP.

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