Protecting Your Employees to Protect Your Business
Why health and safety should mean more than just compliance
The Business of Business is Business
The late economist Milton Friedman is famously quoted as saying “The business of business is business.” This is widely interpreted to mean that company profits should be prioritised above all else. However recent times have seen an increase in the importance of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), which involves a shift in focus from profit maximisation to a broader range of concerns including their social, economic and environmental impact. Corporate performance is no longer solely evaluated on the bottom line, and instead on a “triple bottom line” framework, forcing companies to pay as much attention to people and planet as they do profit. As a result, by 2011 over 97% of FTSE 100 companies were reporting on CSR to some extent in their annual reports[i].
Charity Begins at Home
Since the foundation of CSR is to consider the impact of business on a wide range of stakeholders, it could be argued that the wellbeing of employees should be a priority on the agenda. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) are aiming to promote occupational health and safety as a key topic within CSR reporting[ii]. They are looking for companies to move beyond basic compliance and become more proactive in making changes to improve the health and safety of their workforce. In order to do so, organisations should recognise their employees as valuable assets to the business and should be willing to commit the necessary investment required to maintain a happy and healthy workforce.
Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is
Whilst adoption of CSR reporting is now widespread, a 2014 survey published by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) shows that only 37% of companies set aside a specific budget each year reserved for health and safety measures and equipment[iii]. This suggests that organisations have not yet embraced employee health and safety as part of their CSR agenda, and continue to view this as an operational cost. This outlook encourages buyers to shop for the “cheapest option” however, as with many investments, the cheapest option in the short-term does not usually reflect value for money. Spending less today could actually prove more costly in the long-term, with the cost to employers of work-related ill-health and injury being estimated at £3 billion per year[iv].
Ignore It at Your Peril
The increasing popularity of CSR reporting has been consumer led, driven by public calls for action against corporations who have historically put profit before people. Showing that your business cares about more than just its bottom line is a very attractive proposition for potential customers, and 91% of customers now expect organisations to operate in a socially responsible manner. An effective CSR policy can be a great marketing tool and introducing occupational health and safety as a key theme could really help your business gain a competitive advantage and stand out from the crowd. If you don’t, the likelihood is that your competitor will – is this a risk you can afford to take?