Paying a visit to my professional roots

Next week I’ll be up in Minneapolis to deliver a few presentations at the American Industrial Hygiene Association’s annual conference. I think I’ve mentioned in this blog before that my path to CSR/Sustainability went through the areas of environmental engineering and employee health and safety for quite a while. Industrial Hygiene is a name born far too long ago, but its standard definition still holds – “the anticipation, recognition, evaluation, and control of those environmental factors or stresses arising in or from the workplace, which may cause sickness, impaired health and well-being among workers or among the citizens of the community.” A more contemporary description can be found here.

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Several thousand environmental, health and safety professionals gather each year to get caught up on the latest trends and research. This group comes from the public and private sectors as well as academic and government arenas and has placed CSR/Sustainability near the top of its agenda in terms of being adequately prepared in the 21st century workplace.

Scattered throughout their sessions on disaster recovery, health and wellness, nanomaterials, and ergonomics, I’ve been asked to come and help cover some topics ranging from Sustainability 101, the G3 standard and transparency, and implementing sustainability in a global MNC.

It’s a good opportunity for me to remind myself of some of the foundations of CSR. If companies can’t operate in an environmentally responsible way and send their employees home in at least as good shape as they arrived to the workplace, how can they ever expect to be true CSR leaders? Sometimes with all the external focus on communicating CSR and competition over who has the best branded social entrepreneurship program, I hope companies aren’t taking their eye off their own operations.

Let’s face it; you have to be a CSR leader inside your own walls before you can be perceived as a CSR leader by others.

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