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Is Sustainability following in the footsteps of Health and Safety?

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Date posted: 28th June 2012

Cast your minds back 30 years and picture the scene – a manager of a factory on their weekly walkabout around the shop floor sees one of his engineers standing on an empty oil drum trying to mend a leaking hydraulic pipe. The leaking pipe is around 10 feet off the floor and the hydraulic oil is running down the engineers arms and making a right old mess everywhere.  The floor is slippy because of all the oil and the place is in a sorry state. The manager stops and says to the engineer “I hope you are going to clean that mess up when you’ve finished”.

In today’s health and safety conscious workplace, all manner of alarm bells would be ringing, half a dozen near miss incident forms would be filled in along with risk assessments and investigations. It just shows how much people’s perception has changed towards health and safety in the workplace and may I add as long as a common sense approach is applied the workplace is a far safer and better place nowadays.

Now jump forward 10 years to the early 90s and apply the same ethos to sustainability, for example, did tea manufactures give much thought to the plantation tea pickers? Did the sporting goods manufacturers care about the workers in sweat shop factories that produced trainers? And did large multinational manufacturing companies even consider reducing the carbon footprint of their company. I think no would be the answer, but look at what has happened over the last 20 years. Once again perception has changed and companies now encourage care towards the businesses health, safety and environment matters and sustainability.

Sustainability in my view is heading in the right direction but it still has a long way to go to catch up. Ask yourself one question, does your business put as much effort in sustainability as it does being health and safety aware? If the answer is no then do something about it! Sustainability not only improves a company’s environmental performance but can also increase profitability!

I would love to hear what you think on the matter – please leave a comment below with your thoughts.

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