Firms seeking global growth can achieve long-term prosperity by maintaining high safety and health standards throughout their supply chains, writes Richard Orton, director of strategy and business development at the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (Iosh)
Achieving profitability, growth and resilience in a dynamic market is a challenge for all business leaders. Trading overseas only makes this harder, entailing new responsibilities and tough ethical and operational choices.
One choice concerns agreeing, and being consistent about, how you treat workers, whether your firm employs them directly or indirectly. This can be difficult when there are international variations in employment law. Jurisdictions where labour costs are lower tend to have commensurately worse regulatory safeguards. Tragedies such as the Rana Plaza garment factory collapse in Bangladesh have imposed significant human, financial and reputational costs.
Iosh is the world’s largest professional body (and the only chartered institution) championing safety and health at work, providing advocacy, advice and training for organisations of all sizes. We know that protecting your people – and your firm’s reputation – by investing in health and safety makes good business sense. Studies suggest that it can also improve performance, productivity and profitability.
At the IoD Open House event in 2018, we unveiled The Healthy Profit, a report on the socioeconomic and business benefits of good safety and health. This year we will explore how this works in practice during the IoD Open House on the Road events we’re sponsoring, through our expert-led roundtables and keynote presentations.
Our report included research by the International Social Security Association estimating that each euro invested in occupational safety and health can yield a return of €2.20 (120 per cent). Helping people return to work from sickness absence brings significant advantages for all too: return-to-work programmes deliver an average ROI of 43 per cent for employers. For social security systems and society, they return 22 per cent and 25 per cent respectively.
Employers can therefore gain significant benefits from setting – and following – robust safety, health and wellbeing policies. These standards and processes should apply equally to employees and to contract workers, whether they’re based on site or operating remotely.
The world’s most successful companies and institutional investors recognise the potential returns to be gained from effective safety and health management in both their workplaces and their global value chains. Multinationals such as Unilever are investing millions in reducing the number of injuries and cases of ill-health at their sites and also those of their suppliers.
These firms are seeking to harmonise processes across their territories, maintaining high standards while adapting to local contexts. How you look after people in your supply chain forms part of what they and their investors measure – and they’re increasingly requiring suppliers, however far removed, to show how they’ll do the same. Integrating safety and health into your operations and achieving management consistency throughout the chain will not only show compliance; it will also give you a procurement advantage and make your brand more attractive to consumers and investors.
Iosh is proud to sponsor the IoD Director of the Year Award for Corporate Social Responsibility once more this year. This category features organisations that understand how improved safety, health and wellbeing ensures that all those who work for them don’t get injured or ill in the process. To find out more about the advantages of safer, healthier workplaces, meet us during this year’s IoD Open House on the Road events or visit iosh.com.