Sustainability professionals looking for a career field ready and waiting for your skills — look to Health, Safety and Environment (HSE).
HSE departments led the field in early sustainability. Trained sustainability practitioners can help them to get back on track!
Nikos Avlonas, president, Centre for Sustainability and Excellence (CSE), recently addressed HSE, speaking to Cathy Hansell, President, Breakthrough Results, LLC and Executive Producer, Safety Breakthrough Talk Radio. She is also a Certified Sustainability Practitioner, trained through CSE.
“Sustainability has absorbed HSE as part of its agenda,” says Avlonas.
Despite fears from US withdrawal from global agreements, Avlonas is convinced the incorporation of sustainability within corporations will increase, rather than diminish. No single country can suspend agreements such as the Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement to reduce GHG emissions, observes Avlonas. In Europe, companies with more than 500 employees, including US multinationals, must have sustainability reporting.
HSE is an integral part of this movement. Avlonas points out that investors expect great performance in HSE, particularly over the past 4-5 years. Companies can leveraged their HSE track records to build their sustainability programs.
An obstacle, however, is that too many HSE professionals lack a sustainability background. They don’t understand globally accepted guidelines such as GRI. Fortunately HSE models, (such as Hansell’s SHE partnership to CSR), and best practices are well developed.
Avlonas advises companies to:
- Educate HSE staff.
- Ensure sustainability committees include HSE participants
- Have HSE work with internal communications departments
Steps HSE professionals can take to support sustainability:
- Ask HR for sustainability training to understand how HSE and sustainability interrelate. Many treat them as separate. The “beginning of confusion and beginning of conflict,” says Avlonas.
- If your company has a sustainability committee or plans to have one, make yourself part of the committee.
- Create awareness campaigns for stakeholders internally and externally.
- Provide data to sustainability professionals for their reporting process.
Avlonas and Hansell emphasize that HSE must become more open to the sustainability agenda rather than isolated in its own department. They must work with HR, Quality Control, Communications – bringing all the players together to boost sustainability.
To learn how to integrate sustainability and HSE, attend CSE’s Certified Sustainability Practitioner Program (Advance Edition 2017) in New York City, September 28-29. NYC companies such as HSBC and Pfizer already work with CSE. The training will be led by Nikos Avlonas. Visit www.CSE-net.org for other trainings around the world or for online courses offered by the Sustainability Academy.