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November 3, 2021

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‘Look after your workers if you want to secure long-term prosperity’

IOSH launches global social sustainability campaign, calling on businesses to prioritise people as well as planet and profit.

earthThe Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) has called on the world’s businesses to harness the wave of social change by putting the needs and welfare of people first.

The call comes as the COVID-19 pandemic, the rise of social justice movements and emerging global crises mean there is now more focus than ever on how businesses treat their workers, with investors and consumers paying close attention to how they make profit.

As it launches a new global campaign on social sustainability called Catch the Wave, IOSH says business leaders, at every level of the supply chain, need to act now not just to improve the social sustainability and long-term prosperity of their own businesses – but to help build stronger, more sustainable communities around the globe.

But it’s not just about doing the right thing. Businesses with stronger sustainability practices have stronger operational performance and cashflow, with celebrated sustainability expert John Elkington saying they will benefit from a “more committed and more productive” workforce.

“Those with a stake in business are no longer interested solely in how it makes profit,” said Vanessa Harwood-Whitcher, IOSH Chief Executive. “They want to understand how its profit-making affects people and the environment. They want to know how sustainable it is.

“Before they invest in a business, investors want assurance that it has a long-term plan for managing the skills, knowledge and experience that are integral to a sustainable business model. This can’t be captured in financial metrics alone.

“And we know consumers are watching too. Increasingly, they seek reassurance that the products they buy have been made in good working conditions and by people who are treated and paid well.”

Link to social sustainability

IOSH has launched Catch the Wave because it sees the occupational safety and health profession it represents as being irrevocably linked to social sustainability. It says by viewing everything through a health and safety lens, a business can not only manage the risks to its workforce but also secure its long-term prosperity.

Vanessa added: “When discussing the corporate sustainability agenda, the environment has long been the central concern. But the time has come to put people alongside planet and profit, to unlock and unleash the tremendous value that lies in a business’s workforce.

“Businesses which set high standards for the treatment of their workforce, communities and supply chains are reaping the rewards with stronger performance and growth. This is no coincidence. Social sustainability is the backbone of resilience.

“We are calling on every business and organisation to join this global movement and demonstrate to their people, their customers and investors that they are taking social sustainability seriously. Essentially, they can catch the wave with IOSH – or risk getting left behind.”

John Elkington, a leading expert and celebrated author on corporate responsibility and sustainable development, believes the campaign can make a significant impact.

He said: “[The campaign] offers businesses practical insights into the power that good occupational health and safety, when tackled from a strategic perspective, can provide to deliver better outcomes for workers around the world.

“Done right, this can help business leaders – and tomorrow’s leading businesses – to deliver on the social components of their sustainability goals. Truly regenerative capitalism starts with people – and all of us are likely to be more committed and more productive if we know that our safety, health and environmental concerns are being tackled in a timely and effective manner.”

IOSH works alongside international partners to make a long-term commitment to driving social sustainability forward. It has joined the UN Global Compact, along with more than 14,000 other organisations, all of whom are committing to align their operations with universal principles on human rights, labour, the environment and anti-corruption — and to take actions that advance societal goals.

Several leading businesses are already showcasing the benefits of putting people at the heart of everything they do.

They include global information and communication technology firm Fujitsu, which prides itself on creating a culture which is intolerant of accidents, incidents and poor safety performance, despite having a diverse and geographically widespread workforce.

Paul Brown, Head of Shared Services at Fujitsu, said: “Quite simply, the business recognises that to be successful it must ensure looking after its people is central to everything it does. As well as providing and maintaining a safe and comfortable working environment for all employees, promoting employee mental and physical health is also key.

“We have been working for quite some time to foster a culture that positively manifests occupational health and safety in the workplace. As part of this, we want everyone to feel accepted, nurtured and like they have an equal place within the organisation – because that’s how talent thrives and succeeds.”

IOSH’s campaign is launching today with a livestreamed event from 12.00 GMT. The institution is releasing an overview of social sustainability to inform business leaders, as well as a white paper which covers more technical detail to support the health and safety profession.

Click here for further information.

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