The HSE department of five years’ time is going to look very different to that of five years ago.
The world of Health, Safety and Environmental management is growing more complex by the day. The HSE department of five years’ time is going to look very different to that of five years ago. Among the drivers of change are the fact that there is increasing scrutiny of performance from a wide range of stakeholders, greater complexity in statutory and internal reporting, and increased compliance management. In addition, the ambit of what the HSE department is responsible for has widened to encompass disciplines such as Sustainability and Social Management.
Governments across the world have introduced legislation designed to improve safety, reduce injuries and fatalities, ensure environmental impact is minimised, and safeguard the wellbeing of societies affected by business activity. Compliance against these laws needs to be carefully managed in order to avoid fines and penalties.
But there is also a growing awareness among the investment community of the need for businesses to be run on a sustainable basis. This is not only due to the growing awareness that the planet has limited resources and that companies must act as stewards of the environment and custodians of the societies they impact, but also because research has proven that businesses who take the principles of Sustainability seriously are more profitable in the medium and long term.
We are increasingly seeing Sustainability becoming the responsibility of the HSE department. This makes sense, as HSE departments are typically well established, with existing systems and processes; and a large amount of the data that feeds through into sustainability reports originates within the HSE environment anyway.
Social Management (sometimes represented by the C, for Community in a SHEC department) is also falling within the domain of the HSE team. Responsibility for the compilation of reports such as the Social and Labour plan, which have a large degree of overlap with sustainability reports such as GRI reports or other Integrated Reports, fits logically into the department that bears overall responsibility for sustainability management.
This evolution will impact HSE systems as well. Integrated, enterprise-wide solutions will become ever more necessary. As Verdantix, a leading independent analyst firm, focussed on sustainable business, explains: “At present, the majority of firms meet sustainability requirements by pulling data from dispersed EH&S systems across their organization. Centralizing and standardizing processes for EH&S will directly benefit sustainability management.” (Verdantix: Integrating EHS and Sustainability is the Next Frontier, January 2015).
Gathering remote data from a myriad of different disparate systems is inefficient, time-consuming, and prone to inaccuracy. The challenge for HSE systems going forward will be to ensure data is captured at source in a standardised manner, and flows through into meaningful dashboards and reports, for real-time analysis. And at the centre of this evolution will be the HSE team.