New study finds crucial gaps and lack of transparency in occupational safety and health sustainability reporting
A study just released by the Center for Safety and Health Sustainability (CSHS) revealed troublesome "gaps" and a lack of "transparency" in occupational safety and health (OSH) sustainability reporting among organizations rated highly for sustainability performance.
The study Current Practices in Occupational Health and Safety Sustainability Reporting, also raised concerns about the methodology used to rate sustainability performance, with some corporations reviewed reporting more than 10 work-related fatalities and one organisation reporting 49 in one year.
After analysing public data on OSH reporting practices from each organisation listed on the Corporate Knights' 2011 Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations in the World, the study revealed that the majority of the corporations did not include metrics recommended by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), one of the most comprehensive sustainability reporting frameworks available. Nor did the majority include metrics recognized as important by CSHS and the international OSH professional community.
The study further concluded that even when relevant information is reported, corporate OSH performance is difficult to interpret, compare and analyze due to a lack of uniformity in data collection and clarity over reporting methods and metrics.
"Our research showed, for example, that the companies surveyed used six different formulas to calculate injury rate overall and at least 15 different methods were used to define 'a report-worthy injury or incident,' CSHS Chair Tom Cecich said.
"The objectives of sustainability reporting are not achieved simply by disclosing information. The information disclosed must also be meaningful. Current OSH sustainability reporting practices make it difficult for stakeholders and investors to understand and evaluate the extent of an organization's commitment to OSH management," said Cecich. "It also makes it difficult for an organization to improve awareness of its own performance, better understand necessary improvements, compare itself to competitors and gauge performance improvement over time."
CSHS recommends that GRI and other sustainability reporting frameworks better promote the importance of OSH as a major indicator of an organization's overall sustainability and adopt OSH performance indicators that meet the following criteria:
- Well-defined and standardised terms and definitions that allow for accurately evaluating an organisation's performance across different sectors and geographies.
- Standardised data collection methodology that allows stakeholders to easily compare safety performance across and among organisations.
- The reporting of leading indicators, allowing stakeholders insight into whether corporations are taking meaningful actions to improve OSH performance.
- Information reported over multiple years (e.g. 5 years historical information) enabling internal and external stakeholders to gauge improvement and compare performance to other organisations over time.
- An extended scope of coverage that includes OSH reporting for contingent workers (including temporary contract and subcontractor workers) as well as workers in the Supply Chain - growing and highly vulnerable segments of the global workforce frequently left out of OSH reports.
"It is hard to believe that organisations can report double-digit fatalities and still be on a list of the 100 most sustainable companies," said United Kingdom-based CSHS Director Steve Granger. "Clearly, the methodology for rating sustainability performance must be overhauled."
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 founded by the American Industrial Hygiene Association, the American Society of Safety Engineers, and the UK based Institution for Occupational Safety and Health, CSHS represents over 85,000 workplace safety and health professionals worldwide. For a copy of the report please go to www.centershs.org
Founded in 1939, the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) is the premier association of occupational and environmental health and safety professionals. AIHA's 10,000 members play a crucial role on the front line of worker health and safety every day. Members represent a cross-section of industry, private business, labour, government and academia. See www.aiha.org
The Des Plaines, IL-based American Society of Safety Engineers, founded in 1911, is the oldest professional safety organization and is committed to protecting people, property and the environment. Its more than 34,000 occupational safety, health and environmental professional members lead, manage, supervise, research and consult on safety, health, transportation and environmental issues in all industries, government, labour, health care and education, see www.asse.org.
Based in the UK, the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) is the Chartered body for health and safety professionals, with more than 42,000 members in 85 countries. IOSH set standards, and support, develop and connect members with resources, guidance, events and training. They are a leading voice of the profession, and campaign on issues that affect millions of working people. IOSH was founded in 1945 and is a registered charity with international NGO status. See www.iosh.co.uk
By identifying weaknesses and proposing solutions, the CSHS seek to improve a flawed system that currently allows organisations with multiple fatalities to still be ranked among the most sustainable in the world. It is hoped that you can support our call for meaningful and comparable performance reporting, in order to drive up global health and safety standards, save lives and improve the working conditions of millions of workers.
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