Integrating Occupational Health & Safety into Sustainability

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Integrating Occupational Health & Safety into Sustainability

Integrating Occupational Health & Safety into Sustainability SAP Solution


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Executive summary

Evidence is increasingly pointing to the fact that millions of individuals, specifically over two million individuals, lose their lives each year as a result of forms of work that are not sustainable and that more than 160 million workers become victims of diseases that are related to their work. The evidence also deplores some of the conditions that globalization foster on workers that induce the replacement or extinction of workplaces that are healthy and safe in one part of the world by other working environments in other areas that are more dangerous. As a result of these worrying trends, social dumping which results from exporting or work processes and technology, machines, innovation, chemicals and commodities for use in certain workplaces of recipient nations has become a matter of concern and, as such has to be treated as a matter of priority.

Key words: sustainability, environment, workplaces, job safety and health, environmental sustainability


As mentioned in the proposal, sustainability can be effectively integrated in occupational health and safety through the utilization of corporate responsibility. The utilization of environmental health and safety procedures is an efficient method of making sure that a single integration can be implemented. This kind of implementation can ensure that risks found in operations and procedures, as well as, regulatory compliances are properly adhered to. Sustainability has been indicated to be one of the most essential influences of the global business processes to become supported by EHS. According to the guidelines of EHS, there are three key elements that are required for the integration of safety into environmental sustainability, and these include such things as health and safety, environmental performance, and product safety and stewardship.

It should be noted that the issues of business integration and occupational health and safety and sustainability are closely related. This is so because it is through the protection of the environment that the well-being of human beings is catered for and addressed. As it follows, economic success can be achieved when the well being, safety and health of individuals is protected, as well as, when businesses are well integrated with environmental sustainability. Therefore, workers should be able to perform their duties in an environmental that assures them and promotes their health and safety. This has been indicated to be possible through the establishment of health and occupational programs that are appropriate and effective.

Review of Relevant Literature

A recently published article argues that sustainability is an issue that has been increasing in priority in the minds and agendas of many parties like management, customers, investors, and employees, all of whom are grappling to understand the environmental and social implications of the operational and financial decisions a company makes. This is especially concerning in companies that are highly regulated and those industries that are conscious to brands. Major companies have come to realize that sustainability is not just about being ‘green’. To be feasible, processes and practices of sustainability must work hand in hand with the key strategies and goals of the company to enhance enterprise profitability. In the end, firms need to manage risk, protect their brand, as well as, find chances to improve their profits.

The same article argues that responding to the challenges that result from sustainability has never been more difficult, although the priority given to the same has never been higher. As a result, firms that try to develop programs for sustainability find a number of unique challenges. Some of these obstacles include a proliferation of different guidelines and standards of sustainability, limited reliable information about the sustainability performance of the business, and the inability to relate sustainability performance with the other processes and data used by the management to run the company. As a result of these obstacles, numerous sustainability organizations currently spend most of their valuable time coming up with data for different disclosures and forms. Information for sustainability is usually maintained in applications and systems that are disconnected and disparate. As it follows, qualitative information might never be maintained or stored in any record system. This in turn makes the collection of data costly and slow when it is dependent on bulky spreadsheets and requests for information that are random and made through the phone or email. These types of efforts are prone to errors, inefficient, and not reliable or repeatable processes. In such cases, reporting is never straightforward, and insights and ideas to improve the profitability of the company, as well as, its sustainability performance are left out. As a result, efforts of sustainability remain disconnected from the main processes of making decisions that run the company.

There have been studies that have looked into these challenges and come up with intelligent ways to address them. One such study, for example, found that such companies as the ones described above could address or meet their obstacles effectively through the utilization of a management system for managing, measuring and monitoring the objectives and goals of sustainability. In such cases, it was found that companies like these require a system that reduces or eliminates all together the wastage of time usually associated with collecting and manipulation of sustainability data and information, and collection and calculation of all of the environmental, economic, and social indicators of the sustainability performance of the company. This is to mean that these companies require technology to be aligned with their processes of management to come up with a strategy, direction or goals that are quantifiable for the sustainability performance of the company. In addition, such companies require an application that lines up the company’s sustainability performance with the operational and financial performance of the company to gain insight into the chances and opportunities where sustainability can lead to profitability.

According to another article published in 2011, the only kind of application or system that can fit with all these needs and challenges is the SAP Business Objects Sustainability Performance Management application. According to the authors of the article, the application can help the management of an organization to communicate and track sustainability performance, set objectives and goals, monitor activities and manage risks while reducing the cost and time spent on the collection of data and on the compiling of reports and disclosures. SAP Business Objects Sustainability Performance Management application is based on management tools and processes that have been tested and proven for decades of management of compliance and the enhancement of the performance of a corporate. It is indicated that the application delivers to the user, a user experience that is dynamic for business users who have auditable and traceable environments that are appropriate for both the external and internal disclosures. The appliance enables the user to tailor and customize the sustainability strategy of their company to their business and industry contexts. This would include that managing and modeling of multiple sustainability frameworks that are concurrent, including internal frameworks that are focused on management, as well as, external frameworks that are more focused on disclosures.

The application achieves this because of its special features that allows the users to focus on the metrics or elements that will result to the greatest outcomes and effects for the company’s stakeholders, by leveraging a central KPI, or key performance indicator library that uses elements that are based and created using the guidelines of the Global Reporting Initiative standard. The library also has features that allow the users to develop and update their own KPI sustainability measures that may be made of other multiple tiers of indicators, standards and calculations. All these KPI metrics are kept in a central library that can be filtered, as well as, searched, and that which allows users to reuse and share their work.

The application can be used for several functions. For example, it can be used for collection of data, integration and for analysis of performance. It enables a company collect data because it has guides for the activities of collection of KPI data for both manual and automated sources. Data requests, workflow, approval and validation processes enable and enhance manual quantitative and qualitative collection of data. With the SAP Business Objects Sustainability Performance Management application, one can perform KPI data collection that is automated from system sources. Adjustments can also be performed to address the issue of analogous and missing data. Collection of data is designed to work for sustainability efforts that are small and managed centrally, as well as, activities that are delegated and distributed globally.

In addition to this, the application capitalizes on all of the collected data for sustainability and helps in changing it into insights and information that is actionable. This powerful analytical functionality of the application allows a company to integrate the results and analyze its performance across a number of dimensions. For example, planning workbooks helps companies set targets for different organizations and indicators for sustainability. Scorecards, as well as, dashboards provide graphical displays that are insightful and clear that aids companies maximize their data. Briefing books that are interactive make available compilations of organized reports, scorecards and dashboards to communicate the performance of the company to the stakeholders.

When it comes to integration, the powerful range functionality of the application can be used to function as an independent application to enhance the company’s performance and sustainability management activities. The application can also be used for the integration with other useful applications to leverage the company’s existing investments. This can be done through the synchronization of the application with central master data in the SAP Business Suite Software associated with material and organization. It can also be used to incorporate data from systems that are operational including SAP Environment, Health and Safety Management and SAP Recycling Administration applications. In addition to the above, the application can be applied to additional frameworks of management and sustainability tools such as SAP Business Objects Process Control, SAP Business Objects Strategy Management, and SAP Business Objects Risk Management systems and applications.

According to the studies carried out by the authors of this article, SAP Business Objects Sustainability Performance Management provides for companies the ability to reduce and streamline the monitoring cost of sustainability performance, while aligning this performance of sustainability to corporate risks, strategies and processes improvement. Al these tasks are performed on a single platform. Going beyond essential reporting and monitoring activities, the SAP application enables companies to turn data and strategy into insights and information that can be acted on, and that which can make sustainability goals viable, as well as, profitable for the organization. In addition to the above, the SAP application enables goal setting and reporting at relevant organization levels where the data and information can be acted on, while making the process of reporting less expensive and more efficient. Perhaps the most significant benefit of the application is that a company or organization gains a framework for management that can be used for guiding improvements and growth through planning that is strategic, risk management and performance initiatives.

Case Study Discussion

Discussion of the integration of business processes with sustainability is not complete without addressing the issue of health and safety of workers. Development of sustainability means being able to meet the needs, wants of the current without compromising or endangering the ability of the future individuals to meet their wants, and needs. Organizations, therefore, must come up with ways of securing and producing energy in the long term, while at the same time balancing social, environmental and economical considerations in their processes of and approaches to business. As earlier mentioned, organizations must be able to integrate sustainability into their business processes based on three central pillars; social (people), environment (planet), and economic (profit). The first pillar that concerns people ensures that social responsibility is provided for the external and internal stakeholders. The second pillar deals with the environment and the management of the environment through the reduction of environmental impacts, while the third deals with the creation of economic prosperity in the end.

To properly analyze the meaning of this, it is essential to look at an example of an organization to see how it integrates business process and sustainability with occupational health and safety. The company that will be looked at in this case is ABB group, it is located in Zurich, Switzerland, and its focus is in the automation and power technology areas. In 2010, the company was ranked at the 143rd position in the Forbes List. The company is considered to be among the largest engineering firms in the world, and it has based its operations in more than 100 countries, employing more than 130, 000 workers. The case study discussion, therefore, will analyze and examine the business processes of the company and discuss how the company has integrated these processes with sustainability, safety, and health.

According to the company website, ABB has identified some of the most significant priorities of sustainability- areas of work where the organization can impose a difference through its policies, products and practices. The company argues that these areas of priority reflect the continuously growing concern over changes in climate and what the organization can do to reduce or mitigate these changes through systems and products that are energy efficient, innovation, and how the company deals with its own effects on the environment. for ABB, responsible behavior towards the various company stakeholders include safety, health and the security of the company’s workers and contractors, how the company works and participates in the community, how the company performs in its supply chains in various countries and how the company embeds considerations of human rights into its business processes and practices. As it follows, the company has set its sustainability priorities to address such areas as the environment, corporate social responsibility, occupational health and safety, and crisis management and security.

According to the company, all of its products, solutions, systems, and services are designed in such a way that they can improve and bring value to the businesses of the company’s customers, as they are centered on improving total reliability and increasing the productivity of the industry while lowering impacts to the environment. The organization seeks to reduce the environmental effects of its products and technology, passing on this knowledge and expertise to its suppliers and customers, and at the same time trying to ensure that the processes of manufacturing of the company are friendly to the environment and are energy efficient. In the company’s business and production processes, the organization strives to decrease the utilization if materials and energy, streamline the methods of transportation, reduce effects of business trips, eliminate materials that re hazardous, design products that are recyclable and eco- efficient, and enhance the performance of the company’s suppliers. The company argues that much can be done through sharing of knowledge and practices.

Additionally, the company has indicated that it is committed to maintaining high environmental, social, human rights, governance and ethical standards for the good of all the concerned stakeholders. This is reflected through the company’s social responsibility, which is an indication of the values of the company and the behavior of the company’s stakeholders. As it follows, the company has established a number of standards and policies, all of which are meant to underpin those central values, covering the governance and ethics of the organization, in addition to, its code of conduct, standards and policies such as those that have to do with human rights and Group Social policies. These are all held high by the internal company instructions and directives. There are numerous stakeholders affected by the performance and policies of ABB ranging from workers and contractors to suppliers, customers and communities where the company has based its operations. The group recognizes the essentiality of wide- ranging participation and engagement of the stakeholders in helping it attain its best practices and sustainable practices for the good of all the concerned stakeholders. Experts of sustainability in the company also work hand in hand with business divisions and other functions of the group to raise and increase awareness of possible risks and enhance performance. One of the main areas of concern of corporate responsibility of the group is in human rights. ABB is striving to increase its standards and improve its own understanding and reduction of risks in human rights. In 2007, the company approved a public statement and a human rights policy that was supposed to complement the already available policies for raising environmental, social, safety and health, and performance in business ethics.

In addition to the above areas of concern when it comes to sustainability, safety and health remains a central challenge for ABB group, with the company dealing with more than 117, 000 workers all based and working in diverse situations in around 100 countries, along with numerous contractors. However, the group believes that ensuring the health and safety of its employees is a key priority for the company, supported by leadership and behavioral training programs, and further creating of standards and systems throughout the operations of the company. Despite these efforts, the company indicates that it has lost about five contractors and employees through various accidents while working for the company during the year 2010. The company reports that three of these lost their lives in incidents at customer or project sites, and two others in incidents involving traffic. The company also indicates that more than 35 employees were seriously injured during the past year. The company, however, points out that it has a target of zero injuries and incidents, and that all injuries or deaths that result are unacceptable. During the past year, the company implemented an OHS (occupational health and safety) strategic program to ensure the safety of its workers. Based on the existing requirement for the formal OHS country- level strategic plans, the company established a standard framework in 2010, which included mandatory goals and objectives to be achieved by the end of the year.

One of the areas the company focused for 2010 was leadership in OHS. A new program was established and launched, which involved all the country managers and managers of local business division and unit to show safety leadership as one of the most essential priorities in management. Another project was also launched in 2010 that focused on behavior. The RU safe program aimed at improving and increasing awareness of the possibility for human error and of safety behaviors at all levels. In addition to this, the organization also launched internal communication campaigns to raise and increase awareness on central topics such as road and electrical safety. Furthermore, strategic OHS programs to address certain risk areas were successfully implemented in a number of businesses owned by the organization. For instance, audits for health and safety were conducted as part of the program for energizing safety for business units. Specific instructions for OHS were implemented for business unit transformers and the high and medium voltage businesses reviewed and analyzed the risks associated with their activities. The Power Product section’s service team also started a focused program for improving OHS, addressing the major risks associated with service.

The company’s process automation team also took actions. An expert team began to create instructions for OHS global risks and customized the audit protocols for the group for the purposes of monitoring performance. The teams also worked together with the OHS experts to integrate safety and health considerations in the review process of risks for projects and acquisition reviews. Much further, the professional program development continued with the second team of senior advisors of OHS participating in the group’s International Graduate Diploma, and creating and implementing the first- ever certificate course in construction accredited and approved by the OSH National Examination Board. At the company level, the group also offered training sessions for incident investigation. The company has promised to continue to strive to improve and increase behavioral and leadership safety in the following years. The company has indicated that work will continue to utilize he improvements from the process Automation, Power Systems, and Power Products focused initiatives of the teams, and migrate the learned lessons to other departments and business units. The company has promised that it will not rest until a renewed focus on occupational hygiene and occupational safety and health is realized.

Discussion and Conclusion

As it has been seen, sustainability not only covers ‘green’ issues but how companies design and manufacture their products, how they offer them to the customers, how they deal with suppliers, how they analyze and assess opportunities and risks, and how they behave in the community they operate in and how they behave towards each other, and those within, while striving to ensure the safety, health and security of the workers of the organization, contractors and other stakeholders impacted by the activities of the organization. While there are numerous ways to ensure all this, it has been found that SAP applications can be extremely useful in sustainability efforts in any corporate organizations. This is because SAP applications establishes or creates a basis for a company to report and manage its performance. additionally, these applications helps companies and those within them communicate the sustainability performance of the company, set objectives and goals, manage risks, and evaluate and monitor activities, while at the same time reducing or eliminating the collection of data and the time spend on reporting, as well as, the cost involved. As it follows, the SAP Business Objects Sustainability Performance Management application can be extremely useful for any organization that requires for the purpose of aligning its sustainability goals with business processes.


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