The Center for Safety and Health Sustainability conducts workshops with policymakers, investors and senior executives to promote a ‘transparent, consistent, comparable reporting indicators of occupational health and safety performance,’ says Kathy Seabrook, the organization’s chair. CSHS is part of a growing chorus of voices calling on CEOs to adopt a strategic approach to human capital management.
“Organizations globally are on a journey to ‘connect the dots’ in the areas of human capital, sustainability, workplace safety and health and organizational health and safety management systems,” says Kathy Seabrook, chair of the Center for Safety and Health Sustainability (CSHS) at Centershs.org. As head of an organization dedicated to sustainable workplace management practices, she is at the front-lines of this emerging issue.
The CSHS, Seabrook explains, is focused on the measurement and valuation of occupational health and safety, and how it impacts stakeholder decision-making. “To this end,” she says, “since our inception the CSHS has been influenced by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI); Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB), the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission), investors through our work with Harvard Pension and Capital Stewardship Project and CSHS Human Capital Workshops, ISO (the International Organization for Standardization) and the newly formed Social and Human Capital Coalition (SHCC).”
CSHS’s workshops bring together policymakers, representatives from publicly traded companies, investment houses, academia and the framework and standard-setting industries. Through these workshops, Seabrook says, “CSHS is seeking to identify the most effective drivers for increased disclosure and transparency by organizations; what needs to be included in the disclosure of workplace health and safety performance; what are the next steps to identifying critical metrics; which rating agencies and standards bodies should be used; and what research is necessary.”
Seabrook believes that a confluence of trends are elevating the issue of human capital management into the C-suite. “The investment community, the influence of Millennials, the emotional drivers of loyalty today, the need to attract and retain skilled and innovative people, the need for organizations to enhance their value proposition and avoid becoming commoditized…all of these things are forcing organizations to address their people and their environment,” she explains. “How do you treat people so they create value, enhance the brand and build loyalty? I’ve personally seen the impact of leadership development in safety. You give people roles and responsibilities related to safety when they’ve never led before, and some discover leadership talents they never knew they had.”
Her role as Founder of Global Solutions Inc., a 20-year-old consulting firm that helps multinationals strategically manage issues related to the environment, the health and safety of employees and the impact on the organization, informs Seabrook’s take on sustainable management. She believes the topic of sustainability goes beyond the environment. “You can’t have a company that’s sustainable that is injuring people or creating environments in which people aren’t well,” she says. “How can you say you’re sustainable if you’re killing people?”
Organizations call on her firm to manage risks surrounding people with an integrated approach. “The strategy has to align with the business, quality initiatives, environmental health and safety,” Seabrook explains. “We conduct a gap analysis and use recognized standards to identify environmental, health, or safety risks. We help companies identify where they are, and then we help them build a plan they can internally manage to take action.” It doesn’t help the organization, she says, if her company does all the heavy lifting. “They key is for organizations to assume responsibility for the process.”
Seabrook says all these initiatives start at the top, either with the CEO or head of a division. “Organizations need to understand this is generally not a quick fix. They generally must be ready for three years of commitment. There has to be a leader willing to engage everyone in the organization.” The goal of the process, she notes, is to identify different risks, assess their relative impact and prioritize solutions.
The key to successful implementation, she asserts, is having a clear management system. “Many of the ways organizations address risk is with lagging indicators. We believe organizations need to have management systems and look at leading, proactive indicators to better manage risk. A management system is proactive: you are assessing, prioritizing and implementing the right system to minimize the risk, rather than reacting to events.”
Despite much progress, the concept of having a strategic, people-oriented management system has not caught on yet, she Seabrook admits. “We’re just at the beginning of getting executives to understand that they have to look at the expectations of all their stakeholders, customers, employees, all members of the value chains, and manage them with a systematic approach.”
Kathy A. Seabrook, CSP, CFIOSH, EurOSHM
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