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Raising the Profile of Human Capital in Sustainability

Mar 03, 2017

cshs-logoMost companies today are involved in sustainability in some way, be it basic recycling programs, waste reduction efforts or comprehensive global supply chain initiatives.

These efforts all contribute to corporate performance, but one factor often overlooked in sustainability initiatives is workers themselves. Any sustainability initiative that fails to address human capital issues, particularly worker safety and health, employee engagement and workforce development, is incomplete.

The Center for Safety and Health Sustainability (CSHS), a group founded by ASSP, AIHA, Canadian Society of Safety Engineering and Institution of Occupational Safety and Health, is working to change that. Through its various projects, CSHS is demonstrating the critical importance of incorporating the safety, health and well-being of workers, customers and the community into business practices.

And as BrownFlynn's Kate Lasco and Mike Wallace note in their GreenBiz article, "The Corporate Case for a Healthy Workforce," a growing number of investors are demanding that organization's publicly disclose human capital practices and outcomes as well. "Many institutional investors have integrated the assessment of human capital performance into their company analyses," Lasco and Wallace say. Stock exchanges are also playing a role. "NASDAQ has been a strong advocate and resource for its listed companies to disclose sustainability performance, including human capital," they say.

To build on these developments, CSHS has partnered with Harvard Law School, RobecoSAM and BrownFlynn to support new research focused on human capital and corporate financial performance. "The project will examine corporate disclosure of human capital policies, practices and outcomes, including those relating to OSH," CSHS explains. "It will analyze responses to the RobecoSAM Corporate Sustainability Assessment, an extensive survey of companies that drives the Dow Jones Sustainability Index." The study is a follow-up to an initial study by Harvard researchers Larry Beeferman and Aaron Bernstein, which led to their report, "The Materiality of Human Capital to Corporate Financial Performance." 

The researchers presented their preliminary findings of the human capital benchmark assessment at a CSHS stakeholder workshop on March 31, 2017 in Chicago, IL. The workshop featured expert presentations on the latest sustainability trends, frameworks and standards, as well as discussions of how financial markets consider human capital in decision making.

Originally published March 3, 2017.


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