The position of the occupational safety and health within organizations´ sustainability strategy

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As time goes by and I observe certain occurrences, I get more and more convinced that among all the possible environments throughout the organizations, the sustainability strategies are becoming the ideal habitat for occupational safety and health.

I am not the only one who thinks that it may go in that direction. In fact, the idea is not new at all: the pioneer organizations in this field -generally big corporations- have been implementing this policies from more than 2 decades. More recently, the XX Congress on Safety and Health at Work -one of the most important worldwide events on labour risk prevention- institucionalized the term “sustainable prevention” and much of its content dealer with both concepts -prevention and sustainability- with this statement as example:

Sustainability and occupational safety and health go very well together” [1]

The key of this new scenario is that within a sustainability strategy, OSH can provide a response to the concept of client claimed by organizations and society nowadays, which is not reached neither by the mandatory safety and health regulations nor even the ISO/OHSAS standards.

The position of the occupational safety and health within a sustainability strategy

Among the organizations´development strategies, sustainability reporting is a core element.

To prepare a sustainability report, there are several renowned standarized guidelines, being the GRI G4 the most commonly used and, it seems, the most prevailing one in further years. Within the GRI G4 guidelines, OSH and aspects regarding labour conditions feature a significative role.


The GRI G4 guidelines require to disclose reports on corporate aspects classified in three main categories: economic, environmental and social.

The economic category includes aspects such as economic performance of the organization, market presence, economic impact and procurement practices.

The environmental category is broader. It is about any environmental aspect affected by the organization´s activity: raw materials, energy and resources, impacts on biodiversity, waste, affluents and emissions, compliance, transport, supplier environmental assessment, environmental grievance mechanisms.

The social category is, by far, the most developed one and covers the safety and health aspects of the organization. This category is, in turn, divided into four sub categories including the following aspects:

  • Sub category 1: Labour practices and decent work. Aspects: employment, labor / management relations, occupational health and safety, training and education, diversity and equal opportunity, Ÿequal remuneration for women and men, supplier assessment for labour practices, labor practices grievance mechanisms;
  • Sub category 2: Human rights. Aspects: investment, non-discrimination, freedom of association and collective bargaining, child labor, forced or compulsory labor, security practices, indigenous rights, assessment, supplier human rights assessment, human rights grievance mechanisms;
  • Sub category 3: Society. Aspects: local communities, anti-corruption, public policy, anti-competitive behavior, compliance , supplier assessment for impacts on society , grievance mechanisms for impacts on society ;
  • Sub category 4: Product responsibility. Aspects: customer health and safety, product and service labelling, marketing communications, customer privacy , compliance.

Subsequently, the GRI G4 guidelines requires to disclose specific information regarding each aspect, but this is an issue to be explained in further posts.

That is, even from this general sustainability reporting point of view, it can be seen that the risk prevention aspects have a relevant role. And this presence in the strategic level of the organizations, may go very well to the OHS performance, as the staff from the congress in Frankfurt state.


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[1] XX CONGRESS ON SAFETY AND HEALTH AT WORK. 25 ago 2014. Sustainability and occupational safety and health go very well together. Consulted 10 sept 2014. 
GLOBAL REPORTING INITIATIVE. GRI G4 part 1: reporting principles and standard disclosures. Consulted 30 may 2014.