Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) Spotlight: Health and Safety

Published On: April 18, 2024


Sustainability, a broad concept, is better understood when applied to topics within the parameters of Environmental, Social, and Governance, or ESG. ESG topics, although wide in variety, offer specific, measurable topics on which organizations can focus. For example, ESG topics can range from quantification of energy and emissions resulting from organization processes to analysis of diversity and equality within an organization. Many organizations choose, or are recommended to, several ESG topics to act as their “material topics” (i.e., the topics most valued, and therefore focused on, by an organization).

What an organization does with their ESG material topics is up to the organization itself. Some might choose to publicly report on disclosures related to their ESG topics (i.e., sustainability and/or ESG reporting), while others might focus on ESG topic initiatives internally. Either way, an organization can benefit from 1) identifying and assessing their ESG material topics and 2) investing in initiatives that will lead to improvement with respect to their ESG material topics.

Regardless of the avenue chosen by an organization, ESG reporting standards are a valuable resource for organizations getting started on their ESG journey. For example, the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) topic standards provide several standards for disclosing and focusing on a plethora of ESG-related topics. While the standards are intended for use when generating an ESG report or ESG disclosures, they can also be used as a resource for an organization to understand what metrics and analyses should be considered regarding a specific ESG topic. Through the latter use, the standards can provide support for an organization developing sustainability or ESG programs internally.

ESG Topic: Health and Safety

Although health and safety may not come to mind immediately when one hears “sustainability” or “ESG,” it is an ESG topic, falling under the “social” category. In fact, for many organizations, health and safety is chosen as a material topic due to its priority throughout most, if not all, industries.

Health and safety professionals within an organization can benefit greatly from reviewing and understanding the health and safety metrics and/or disclosures outlined within ESG standards, such as the GRI standards. These standards can be used by professionals to 1) identify health and safety metrics that their organization is already tracking, with the possibility of identifying improved methods for tracking data, 2) identify new health and safety metrics that their organization should consider tracking, and 3) identify health and safety metrics that other organizations, whether in the same industry or not, are tracking. All three of these benefits have the potential to aid health and safety professionals in creating a more robust health and safety program within their respective organizations.

The links between sustainability, ESG, and health and safety are strong, and present a great example of how organizations can view sustainability as part of their entire organization, rather than a separate concept. After all, sustainability is just the concept of maintaining something for a long time, and it is only through its application to ESG topics (i.e., procurement, energy use, health and safety, etc.) that makes it a valuable practice.

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