The Campbell Institute: Safety – the cornerstone of sustainability
The Campbell Institute at the National Safety Council is the EHS center of excellence. Built on the belief that EHS is at the core of business vitality, the Institute seeks to help organizations, of all sizes and sectors, achieve and sustain excellence. Learn more at thecampbellinstitute.org.
In the simplest terms, sustainability is defined as the capacity for a process or system to endure.
In organizations around the world, there are many different definitions of sustainability. Some companies recognize only the ecological component. Others recognize sustainability from a broader perspective – defining it as a balance of environmental, economic and social factors to create long-term value for our employees, our stakeholders and our communities.
The holistic view of sustainability provides an excellent framework for environmental, health, safety and sustainability professionals to make an impact. They look at the planet, profit and people components of sustainability. Examining these three pillars helps engage all stakeholders and remind us that safety is the cornerstone of all we do.
The first pillar we consider is the planet. Environmental factors include minimizing the impacts to the air, water, land, people and other species that are part of the spaces where we live. It also includes basics that are part of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, such as providing access ?to clean water and sanitation and protecting the climate.
We all need safe and healthy air to breathe, and a core responsibility of the EHS&S professional is to ensure that is possible. The professional has many tools to accomplish this task:
- New facilities are built and older facilities are redesigned to minimize emissions into the environment.
- Manufacturing and distribution processes are enhanced to reduce energy consumption, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and more efficiently use raw materials.
- Innovative technologies are developed to reduce particulate, chemical or other material emissions.
- New product formulations are created to eliminate the use of hazardous chemicals.
- Work processes are designed to minimize worker exposure to dust, chemicals and other particulates.
All of this is done to protect the safety of each person in the workplace and the surrounding community.
The second pillar is profit. Economic factors include business efficiency, productivity and being profitable enough to successfully operate. This also includes SDGs such as eliminating poverty, providing good work and fostering economic growth.
Safety is fundamental to any operation surviving and thriving economically. Ensuring people go home in the same condition that they came to work is every employee’s responsibility – especially the safety and health professional.
Eliminating injuries not only protects employees, it also reduces cost. Without making employees its first priority and putting processes in place for them to work safely, a business cannot be sustainable.
People make up the third pillar of sustainability. Social factors include ensuring the safety and health of our employees and responsibly contributing to the future of the communities where we live and work.
In addition, this includes the SDGs of eliminating hunger, ensuring good health and well-being, and reducing inequality among others. EHS&S professionals have a large impact in this area. They choose this role because they truly care for people and the environment, and want to see both thrive.
Safety is the cornerstone of sustainability. Without making safety a top priority and weaving it through every practice, process and philosophy, we would not succeed.
Providing safe water, safe air, safe working conditions and a sustainable environment for all is the EHS&S professional’s main responsibility, but all of us play a role in building a safe, sustainable world for years to come.
This article represents the independent views of the author and should not be construed as a National Safety Council endorsement.
Al Zucco leads the Energy, Environmental, Product Safety & Health, and Sustainability teams at Campbell Institute member USG Corp., a leading manufacturer and distributor of high-performance building systems and technologies..