corporationInvestors and pension-holders should use their leverage to hold companies accountable for worker safety, according to a new report from the Committee on Worker's Capital (CWC).

The paper's authors point to date showing a positive relationship between health and safety performance and financial performance.

From the report:

"Failure to ensure high health and safety standards are associated with clear financial, reputational and regulatory risks for companies. This finding is significant for investors that are committed to integrating social factors within their investment decision-making frameworks. In this regard, the debate for investors is not whether OHS risks are material, but rather how to adequately address them."

The CWC said that institutional investors who are concerned with appropriate management of human capital as risk management strategy should keep inmind the negative impact that poor health and safety cultures have on companies.

"This situation creates a viable opportunity for higher levels of targeted shareholder activism to improve corporate performance and disclosure on OHS issues."

The CWC recommends that broad-based investor coalitions -- such as trade union pension funds -- work within a systematic framework to advance worker rights.

Collaborators in the project included ICEM, the International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers Federation (ITGLWF), the Building and Wood Workers International (BWI), and ICEM affiliates the United Steelworkers (USW), and the National Union of Mineworkers of South Africa (NUM).

The CWC is a joint initiative of the ITUC, Global Union Federations (GUFs), and the Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD (TUAC). Established in November 1999, following a meeting of international trade union leaders in Stockholm, Sweden, the CWC examines ways for workers to leverage their retirement savings on companies so that they respect human and labour rights.

The paper includes case studies from the Massey Energy Upper Big Branch mine disaster of April 2010 that killed 29 non-union members in the state of West Virginia, and from USW oil workers at the Tesoro Refinery in Anacortes, Washington, and from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Click here for the complete report.