HSE Manager and Sustainability getting together is a marriage of convenience for sure. Perhaps it could be also a ‘marriage of love’, so to speak, due to some particular characteristics of the two ‘spouses’. Let’s see why.
Sustainability in practice
Sustainability is a word on everyone’s lips. More or less like “Circular Economy”. But when it comes down to it, things get more complicated. For most people, Sustainability is an “environmental” or “philanthropic” issue. Nothing wrong with that, mind you.
But companies have great opportunities to seize in the practice of “real” Sustainability.
The embedded approach to corporate Sustainability changes the way of doing business radically. The focus shifts towards generating Value for all stakeholders. We are no longer satisfied with quantitative growth alone, without considering threats and opportunities. We all have seen companies grow in output and turnover and end up bankrupt due to a lack of global vision of the operating context.
The purpose of Embedded Sustainability in a nutshell? To improve performance, including profitability for shareholders, while fostering the protection of the ecosystem and development in societal Value at large.
There is one document that best frames the issue: it is the ISO 26000:2010 Guideline for Corporate Social Responsibility. It clearly states in clause 2.18 that an organisation’s Social Responsibility is concerned with the impact of its decisions and activities on society and the environment in such a way that, through ethical and transparent behaviour, they:
- Contribute to Sustainable Development
- Consider the expectations of stakeholders
- Comply with laws and international standards of behaviour
- Are integrated throughout the organisation
Sustainable Development and Corporate Sustainability
In clause 3.3.5 it is explained that, since Sustainable Development concerns social, economic and environmental objectives common to all people, it can summarise society’s expectations towards an organisation that wants to act responsibly.
Thus, the overall objective of the Social Responsibility of an organisation is to contribute to Sustainable Development.This is how ISO 26000:2010 defines the contours of Embedded Sustainability.
17 Objectives and 169 Targets for Business Excellence
Sustainable development is summarised in the 17 goals of the United Nations 2030 Agenda and their 169 targets.
To achieve Sustainability, a company must reconcile the economic, environmental and social expectations of its stakeholders in its activities and processes. How to do this?
The answer to this conundrum comes from Sustainability as an excellent industrial management strategy. What we at Exsulting call Embedded Sustainability, which gives our ESIndex® its name.
Sustainability and business excellence
Sustainability is business excellence. It considers opportunities and threats posed by the context in all three dimensions and helps to make the best of them.
Sustainability must be applied in every process, at every level. It requires a strong commitment of the company’s leadership and the full involvement of employees and company functions. Companies that have done so see their accounts improve. So does their market value and share price. They improve their margins and reputation, opening up new markets and avoiding threats that sink their competitors.
HSE managers and sustainability
So what do HSE managers and Sustainability have to do with each other? Few people in the company have as broad and deep a view of all processes as are safety and environmental managers. It is normal for them to have a detailed view of processes. They have to assess threats and prevent them all the time. They are best equipped to take stock of the inputs and outputs of processes. This serves to identify opportunities to improve their material, energy and environmental balance.
They know what innovation is needed to prevent serious threats from substances in processes or products. They are accustomed to thinking in terms of management systems and integrating them broadly across all areas of activity. Indeed, the safety of people and the environment must be dealt with globally, not functionally.
HSE manager competence and sustainability
Knowing the HSE of some of the biggest Italian companies, I see a level of competence at top management level. Sometimes even at executive level. This wealth of vision and experience, integrated into strategic decisions, can put the company on the right track to explore new business models, products and process innovation. It can suggest new market areas, revenue streams and other opportunities that Embedded Sustainability is constantly presenting.
It can improve the treatment of “threats” until they are neutralised as far as possible. Or remove or transfer the risk where it can be dealt with more efficiently.
In short, when the quest for Sustainability becomes serious, the safety and environmental manager becomes decisive. If they are well supported, they can bring corporate Sustainability to an extraordinary degree of effectiveness.
Exsulting for HSE managers
What can we do to facilitate this? Through ESIndex® the HSE can bring a comprehensive assessment of current threat and opportunity management to the top management. This begets awareness how much sustainability is being used to manage uncertainty. And of how it might be possible to improve, to the point of excellence, corporate performance through embedded Sustainability.
In several cases we have seen this approach allow the HSE manager to become the linchpin of a renewed and more integrated corporate sustainability. With the side effect of strengthening the role of the manager within the corporate structure.