Sustainability and financial accounting will soon include critical occupational safety and health data in the continued evolution of integrated reporting.
So contends a new report by the Center for Safety and Health Sustainability, entitled “The Accounting Revolution and the New Sustainability: Implications for the Occupational Safety and Health Professional.” Written to advise and educate occupational safety and health (OSH) professionals about emerging trends in sustainability and financial accounting, the report provides insight and analysis of current sustainability policies and practices as well as implications for OSH oversight and management.
Sustainability information helps business leaders identify opportunities for risk mitigation and value creation while helping investors and analysts understand factors that affect investment performance. As a result there is an increased focus on improving performance on “material” sustainability issues.
Integrated reporting, which combines the reporting of sustainability information with financial information, has moved sustainability from the backroom to the boardroom. A major step in the direction of greater corporate transparency and the sharing of meaningful risk management and performance data, integrated reporting should help make sure sustainability information is better integrated into business strategies, processes and decisions.
"A dramatic transformation"
With the increasing recognition that many non-financial topics such as OSH are material, the OSH stands to benefit from a dramatic transformation of the way it is viewed and managed by organizations.
The expanded notion of “capitals” in reporting moves beyond traditional reporting on financial and physical capital to include human, social and relationship, intellectual, and natural capitals that are also acknowledged to be essential to organizational growth. OSH professionals should expect to see more about the importance of human and social capital to an organization, in particular.
According to CSHS Board Chair Kathy A. Seabrook, “OSH professionals know their work not only saves lives but contributes to an organization’s long-term viability and financial stability. By integrating OSH performance into effective sustainability reporting, business leaders and investors will have more interest in OSH as a foundational aspect of human capital in their world of Economic, Social, Governance (ESG) investing.”
A leadership role for OSH professionals
“OSH professionals now have line of sight to the board room in their organizations as never before,” Seabrook continued. “To capitalize on this, OSH professionals should play a leadership role in organizational activities such as horizon scanning, change management, enterprise risk management, supply chain management and developing and implementing new standards such as International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 45001. Not recognizing the opportunities that sustainability brings will leave OSH professionals behind in reactive, compliance-focused roles.”
The Center for Safety and Health Sustainability (CSHS), established in 2010, is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization committed to advancing the safety and health sustainability of the global workplace. CSHS engages safety and health partners around the world to work toward establishing minimum standards that help reduce workplace injuries and ill health. A collaborative effort by the American Industrial Hygiene Association, the American Society of Safety Engineers, the Canadian Society for Engineering and the Institution for Occupational Safety and Health (UK), CSHS represents over 100,000 occupational safety and health professionals worldwide. For a copy of the report please go to www.centershs.org/.