Safety, sustainability should work together: Executive Forum

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San Diego — The overarching theme of the Executive Forum at the National Safety Council 2019 Congress & Expo on Monday was this: Workplace safety and health go hand in hand with sustainability.

“We believe that every organization should recognize and act on the value of occupational safety and health and well-being as part of their sustainability,” said moderator Kathy Seabrook, chair of the Center for Safety and Health Sustainability.

Seabrook was one of four speakers who shared their organizations’ journey toward forging that partnership between occupational safety and health and sustainability.

Danyelle Lynne Phelps, director of enterprise environmental and operations sustainability at Owens Corning, said her organization’s corporate structure has its environmental, health and safety directors report to the chief sustainability officer. This allows the organization to set “aspirational, long-range sustainability and EHS goals” that look a decade or more down the road.

Catherine Sheane, sustainability and resilience practice lead at the Parsons Corp., also pointed to her organization’s changes in corporate structure as a driving change.

“Trying to understand how the parts and pieces fit together is ongoing for us,” she said.

Currently, the lead from Parsons’ sustainability working group collaborates with what’s now known as the safety, health, environment and sustainability corporate structure “to manage the transition and integration.”

Nancy Case, vice president of environment, health and safety for The Mosaic Co., said her organization’s change toward a more broad definition of sustainability started about a decade ago. Previously, safety and environmental goals were independent of operational goals.

“About 10 years ago, we started to implement a management system, and that management system provided us with a very structured framework and guided us on how we looked at our risks, how we managed them and how we accomplished our goals,” she said.

Case said this is a significant focus because having a sustainable, healthy workforce “is becoming a social norm and expectation.”

“We are considering employees not just for the tasks they do at work, but for the bigger picture from a health standpoint,” she added.