How OSH professionals can get involved in the human capital conversation

Mike Wallace, partner at ERM and a special adviser to the Center for Safety and Health Sustainability
Partner at ERM and a special adviser to the Center for Safety and Health Sustainability

On 3 April 2019, the Center for Safety and Health Sustainability (CSHS) held its fourth Human Capital workshop in Paris (bit.ly/2PdMyaR). Created in 2011, the CSHS is a collaboration between IOSH, the American Society of Safety Professionals,  the American Industrial Hygiene Association and the Canadian Society of Safety Engineering.

This year’s workshop highlighted how global corporate interest in the human capital concept has gained ground in recent years (for more on this, see our Kathy Seabrook leader interview, October 2018: bit.ly/2UG2nfR).

The workshop also looked at the CSHS’s role in influencing how the sustainability field combines occupational safety and health (OSH) with the evolving definitions of sustainability and human capital. CSHS joined delegates in signing a commitment to position people’s safety, health and wellbeing at the centre of the sustainable business agenda.

Take a look at how organisations globally are investing more time and energy into the sustainability agenda and then consider your own definition of what sustainability means. Now think about the growing list of the world’s most sustainable companies. Sustainability is much more than environmental issues. It’s about people, the planet and profit. How can a company be labelled “the most sustainable” when its workers or its suppliers’ workers are not safely managed? Is the safety field about helping its professionals to survive in their workplace? Or is it about helping them to thrive? When a company can show how it is taking care of its workers’ wellbeing, its suppliers and its customers, might this have a positive impact on the bottom line, employee and customer loyalty, retention and attraction of talent? These were a few of the issues discussed in Paris.

How can a company be labelled ‘the most sustainable’ when its workers are not safely managed?


The CSHS, supported by L’Oréal and IOSH, hosted the largest and most comprehensive discussion to date, featuring some of the leading global thinkers in this space. The summit highlighted the latest research and trends from ShareAction, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, EcoVadis and ERM. Leading investors such as BNP Paribas and Hermes shared how they are assessing the human capital performance of the companies they own and Arabesque explained its due diligence for assessing how corporate performance and sustainability are linked. The workshop also featured conversations with L’Oréal, Nike, Google and AP Moller-Maersk, which shared examples of OSH management and the linkage to sustainability and human capital. 

So how can others become involved? How can you make it relevant to your own OSH expertise and organisation? More companies are actively measuring, managing and reporting on their overall sustainability performance. Your OSH expertise is crucial to the human capital conversation.

The CSHS’s work on OSH indicators is a good place to start: bit.ly/2GfwX6F. Another useful resource is the research published by Harvard Law School, which looks at how investment company RobecoSAM, Harvard and the CSHS assessed the OSH/human capital disclosures from respondents to the Dow Jones Sustainability Index: bit.ly/2DcEjHC.

Finally, look at the work done by the Global Reporting Initiative (bit.ly/2GgOhIE) to understand how the world’s leading sustainability organisation is adopting and evolving its work on OSH issues through its standard.


Mike Wallace is a partner at ERM and a special adviser to the Center for Safety and Health Sustainability.  He is also the interim executive director of the Social and Human Capital Coalition.

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