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Dear Subscriber:


If you're like most ISHN readers, you handle safety and health issues at a work site with 500 employees or less. Of seven million workplaces in the U.S., 6.9 million operate with fewer than 500 employees. So should you concern yourself with all the talk these days about corporate social responsibility, ethical behavior, sustainability, accountability, and citizenship?

"The current bandwagon is PR, a joke," says a safety and health activist. "These companies want awards for what they should be doing all along."

"In a smaller company, a solid champion with an evangelical streak may be able to influence the actions of the organization," says James Platner with The Center to Protect Workers Rights.

"Most of us will have limited involvement on the social issues, except perhaps for child labor, safe work conditions, and the environment," says Zack Mansdorf, environmental health and safety corporate director for L'Oreal in France.

Opinions vary, as you see.

If you're not with one the big name transnationals, you probably don't have a consumer brand image to guard. Nor face potential charges of exploiting teenage working women living in dorms in Asia. Probably don't have titles in your organization like DuPont's Director of Sustainable Development or MTV Networks's Vice President of Public Responsibility.

And you're probably not going to attend conferences like "How to Manage Corporate Social Responsibility, Why It's Essential, and How to Make it Pay" in New York City, October 2-4. Or a corporate social responsibility workshop for contractors and suppliers in Shenzhen, China, October 24-25, sponsored by Business for Social Responsibility.

So do trends like these matter to you?

  • 73 percent of companies surveyed by Ernst & Young say corporate social responsibility is a priority boardroom agenda item.

  • 45 percent of the world's largest 250 companies issued corporate social responsibility reports in 2001, according to KPMG.

  • 75 percent of 140 companies polled by PricewaterhouseCoopers have adopted some sustainable business practices, and 89 percent predict there will be more emphasis on sustainability in the next five years.

    Is President Bush talking to you and your company when he says it is time for a new era of corporate accountability. . . "built on a foundation of integrity"?

    After all, as the chairman of Goldman, Sachs Group recently told The New Yorker magazine, "There are more well-run companies in the United States than there are anywhere else in the world."

    The odds are your company is one of them. In a recent survey of ISHN readers, only one in five said they needed greater support from their managers on safety and health issues.

    Only about one in ten readers is out looking for a new job at a different company.


    OK. You feel pretty good about how your company handles "social issues" like the safety and health of your employees. You believe your company manages to operate profitably and responsibly. You comply with OSHA and EPA laws. Treat employees fairly. Contribute to the economic, environmental and social well-being of your community - the so-called "triple bottom line."

    And you've worked to make your production processes more "sustainable", by identifying and controlling hazards, reducing toxic exposures and ergonomic risks, and wringing waste and inefficiency out of your systems.

    Can you prove it? Document it?

    Put it in a report and communicate your responsible actions to your employees, their families, your customers, community leaders, regulators, environmental groups, and if you are a publicly-held company, your investors?

    Do you have a "management system" in place that ties together all your policies, procedures, training, monitoring, and reporting in a documented program that could, if necessary, be verified by an outside auditor?

    That's where this corporate social responsibility movement could be heading. And it will affect not only the Big Boys, the multinationals, but smaller companies, contractors and suppliers, all down the supply chain.

    If you want contracts from the Big Boys, you will need to meet their requirements to guard against business interruptions, liabilities, and risks to their reputations. That could include standards of social responsibility, just like it has for quality and environmental management.

    That's why, even if you are a small operation seemingly off the responsibility radar screen, it is worth tracking reports, polls, and news stories about corporate social responsibility. International standards on accountability and reporting already exist, and ISO could be getting into the act.

    One consultant, DNV, has issued about 40 certificates verifying compliance with Social Accountability standard SA 8000 - which includes requirements that companies must meet basic health and safety standards, and provide safety equipment and training. (The cost? Small firms can expect to spend $7,000-$12,000 over three years to become certified against SA 8000.)

    "Small enterprises will be concerned about corporate social responsibility because they are in a conglomerate's supply chain or may be required to be certified by a brand-conscious buyer," explains Russell Thornton, manager, EHS certification, for DNV. "The conglomerate's strategy will be to reduce the social risks in their supply chain."

    Baxter International is one of those conglomerates. Last year it launched the "Doing Business with Baxter" program. Key suppliers complete a detailed questionnaire on environment, social, and economic performance and participate in on-site workshops to understand Baxter's expectations of suppliers.


    Industry surveys might show which way the wind is blowing, but nothing beats case studies to prove there is a pay-off for companies investing to reduce social risks. Be on the look out for stories like these:

  • Companies are using Total Health Strategies to set health objectives (cut absentee rate by 10 percent annually, for example) and measure benefits. This social initiative can be done at home or abroad. San Bernardino County, California, reported a 20 percent drop in lost-time expenses from sick leaves after instituting a wellness program. Carpenter Technology Corporation has used on-site clinics for five years to serve 2,200 of its 5,900 employees and dependents. The company estimates it saved more than $108,000 in 1997.

  • A gas pipeline operator in the United Kingdom, Transco, set up a Safety Charity Challenge that asked all of its 14,000 employees to report and fix hazards such as exposed electric cable. For every hazard eliminated, the company made a monetary contribution to the learning disability charity Mencap. Larger donations were made if more serious hazards were eliminated. Mencap also benefited every time one of Transco's 18 office locations reported a drop in the number of lost-time injury cases. In 18 months, lost-time accidents were cut by one-third, saving 2,521 workdays, and 14,000 hazards were corrected. The money raised for Mencap supported 20,000 extra support sessions for people with learning disabilities.

  • ExxonMobil says "a basic goal of any responsible business should be to do all it can to eliminate accidents and the injuries and deaths that result." The company provides worldwide training to employees in first aid, CPR, hazardous materials and mechanical operations. In some villages, citizens are invited to meetings on road safety, installing traffic signs and speed bumps, and upgrading roads. Employees are also taught how to recognize risks and reduce them in the workplace and at home. Lost-time accident rates in ExxonMobil's Africa and Southeast Asia operations now equal developed country levels. In 2000, the best safety performance of any ExxonMobil worldwide production operation was in Malaysia.

  • L.L. Bean has four inspectors who roam the globe, examining the factories (mostly contractors) that produce goods for the retailer. Two full-time monitors in Asia conduct inspections five days a week. Operational standards were set in give-and-take sessions with stakeholders including non-government organizations (NGOs).

  • Other firms use outsiders. British Petroleum uses Ernst & Young to do independent social and environmental audits.

  • The Gap deals directly with local NGOs in Central America to examine working conditions, believing that is the best way to establish trust with local communities.

    A task force of major U.S. companies has been set up by Organization Resources Counselors, a consulting firm, to develop a library of socially responsible projects related to safety and health best practices. ORC's Steve Newell calls it a "bottom up grassroots effort by safety and health pros to identify real projects that add real value to the business."

    Stay tuned. . .


    As these case studies show, there is a direct connect between safety, health and environmental management and social responsibility and sustainability.

    To better grasp the connection, let's look at the definitions.

    Corporate social responsibility means reaching business goals in ways that respect ethics, people, communities, and the environment. It means ensuring fair and reasonable employment, including safe and healthy workplaces. It also means ferreting out social risks, reputation risks, costs and potential liabilities and managing them. It is, in fact, a form of risk assessment and risk management.

    Sustainable business practices to ensure life-sustaining resources for future generations necessarily involves reducing workplace hazards, toxic exposures, ergonomic inefficiencies, and other forms of waste (including injuries). A basic staple of safety - housekeeping - is key to waste elimination, according to Dr. Robert Pojasek. Safety and health pros are also involved in the cradle-to-grave stewardship programs that ensure efficient use and disposal of materials and products.

    Now let's examine safety and health provisions of some of the international social responsibility and accountability standards.

    Social Accountability (SA) 8000, released in 1997 by the Council on Economic Priorities Accreditation Agency, is based on United Nations and International Labor Organization conventions. It addresses nine areas of human rights, including these health and safety criteria:

  • The company. . . shall provide a safe and healthy working environment and shall take adequate steps to prevent accidents and injury to health. . . by minimizing, so far as reasonably practicable, the causes of hazards inherent in the working environment.

  • The company shall appoint a senior management representative responsible for the health and safety of all personnel. . .

  • The company shall ensure that all personnel receive regular and recorded health and safety training. . .

  • The company shall establish systems to detect, avoid, or respond to potential threats to the health and safety of all personnel.

    The Global Reporting Initiative, established in 1997, recently released its revised 2002 sustainability reporting guidelines. Included are social performance indicators, mostly policies, procedures, and management practices. They include:

  • Average hours of training per year per employee;

  • Practices on recording and notification of occupational accidents and diseases;

  • Description of formal joint health and safety committees comprising management and worker representatives;

  • Evidence of substantial compliance with the ILO Guidelines for Occupational Health Management Systems;

  • Description of formal agreements with trade unions or other bona fide employee representatives cover health and safety at work;

  • Description of policies for preserving customer health and safety during use of products and services.

    Countries are getting into the act, too. In Japan, there is the ECS2000 Ethics Compliance Management System Standard. In France, there is a new regulation requiring social reporting for publicly listed companies.


    The ISO (International Organization for Standardization) Committee for Consumer Policy met this past June in Trinidad and Tobago and recommended that ISO form an advisory group to study the question of developing standards for corporate social responsibility.

    ISO is well positioned to take the lead in developing voluntary corporate social responsibility management systems and build on the infrastructure of ISO 9000 (quality) and ISO 14000 (environmental) standards, as well as the momentum generated by having close to a half-million firms certified to these systems, said Dr. Kernaghan Webb, author of the committee's report.

    Firms could self-declare compliance with the proposed new standards or seek certificates from authorized third parties.

    Said Dr. Webb: Firms complying with ISO corporate responsibility management systems standards will contribute to the economic, environmental, and social well-being of the communities in which they operate.

    Other arguments put forth supporting an ISO standard included:

  • An internationally recognized standard of corporate behavior might eliminate political corruption spurred on by intense competition among multinationals.

  • ISO quality, environmental and corporate social responsibility standards could form a trio of ISO management standards and become three pillars supporting business efforts to show they care about quality, the environment, and the social effects of their production or activity.

  • Businesses are perturbed by the number and varying quality of corporate social responsibility initiatives now in the marketplace and are often intimidated into doing nothing.

  • Even when adequate national laws or standards exist, many countries just do not have the resources to police and implement them.

  • 51 of the 100 biggest economies in the world now are corporations, and multinationals are too important to be left to voluntary and self-generated standards.

    The recommendations of the ISO consumer committee to form an exploratory advisory group will be decided on by the ISO Council this month, according to ISO officials.

    Again, stay tuned. These corporate social responsibility standards and sustainability practices aren't going away. Consultants smell a new certification market. Pressure groups are trying to crank up outrage over globalization abuses. And brand-reliant corporations selling to consumers are worried about reputation risks.

    Here's one development to look for: Occupational health and safety management systems standards, such as the ANSI Z10 effort now underway, might be folded into broader social responsibility standards by a group like ISO.


    Tell us about your company's social responsibility programs or sustainability projects that relate to safety and health - and their benefits. We will feature them in a future newsletter. Email You can check out some success stories at Web sites listed below.

    In ISHN's next e-newsletter, we will study more closely the role safety and health professionals can play in social responsibility and sustainability efforts.


    Baxter International Sustainability Report

    3M Sustainability Report

    Global Reporting Initiative

    Social Accountability Standard SA 8000



    Business for Social Responsibility



    Ethical Corporation magazine

    Ethical Performance newsletter


    ECOS Corporation


    Organization Resources Counselors

    American Chemistry Council (Responsible Care)

    Dave Johnson is the ISHN E-News editor. He can be reached at, (610) 666-0261; fax (610) 666-1906.

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