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Corporate social responsibility can influence development of occupational safety and health management and contribute to integration of safety and health into overall company’s management. It is of particular importance when managing psychosocial risks. Various instruments have been created to support the implementation of corporate social responsibility into management practices, including among others codes of conduct and different types of guidance and standards. A lot of them can be used to develop occupational safety and health management in the framework of corporate social responsibility.

Occupational safety and health as a part of corporate social responsibility

Occupational safety and health (OSH) covers issues related to the social, mental and physical wellbeing of workers. For many years these issues have been recognized as main aspects of corporate social responsibility (CSR), which is based on voluntary integration of social and environmental concerns into the companies’ decision-making. This has been expressed (directly or indirectly) in various definitions and approaches to CSR developed in the last decades.

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development has defined CSR as “the continuing commitment by business to behave ethically and contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the workforce and their families as well as of the local community and society at large"[1].

International Labour Organisation (ILO) has defined CSR as “a way in which enterprises give consideration to the impact of their operations on society and affirm their principles and values, both in their own internal methods and processes and in their interaction with other actors". According to ILO, CSR is a voluntary, enterprise-driven initiative and refers to activities that are considered to exceed compliance with the law[2].

European Commission has defined corporate social responsibility as "a concept whereby companies integrate social and environmental concerns in their business operations and in their interaction with their stakeholders on a voluntary basis". Socially responsible companies aim to go beyond minimum legal requirements and obligations stemming from collective agreements in order to address societal needs. It means, among others, that they invest in human capital, enhance health and safety using voluntary schemes (e.g. OSH criteria in certification of management systems, procurement, labelling, etc.) and manage change in a socially responsible manner[3].

The current international approach to corporate social responsibility is presented in the standard ISO 26000[4] “Guidance on social responsibility", published in November 2010. In order to emphasize that social responsibility is applicable to different types of organizations (not only the business organizations), the term “social responsibility" instead of “corporate social responsibility" is used in this standard. In the ISO 26000, social responsibility is defined as the responsibility of an organization for the impacts of its decisions and activities (products, services and processes) on society and the environment, through transparent and ethical behaviour that:

  • contributes to sustainable development, including health and welfare of society,
  • takes account of the stakeholders’ expectations,
  • is in compliance with the applicable law and consistent with international norms of behaviour,
  • is integrated throughout the organization and practiced in its relationships.

According to the ISO 26000, socially responsible organizations:

  • are willing to incorporate social and environmental considerations in their decision-making processes and be accountable for the impacts of their decisions and activities on society and the environment,
  • follow the general principles of social responsibility which include: accountability, transparency, ethical behaviour, respect for stakeholder interests, respect for the rule of law, respect for international norms of behaviour, respect for human rights.

The close relationship between occupational safety and health and CSR has been confirmed by numerous case studies as well as international and national initiatives related to corporate social responsibility, which have been presented and analyzed by the European Agency of Safety and Health at Work in 2004. In its report, the Agency has clearly stated: “There can be no doubt that safe and sound working conditions and good worker health belong to the social responsibilities of companies and can be regarded as an integral part of CSR" and emphasized that “companies cannot be socially responsible externally without being socially responsible internally"[5].

Developing occupational safety and health management in the framework of corporate social responsibility

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) can influence development of occupational safety and health (OSH) management and particularly contribute to:[6]

  • integration of safety and health into business processes,
  • developing strategic approach to OSH that is compatible with strategic management,
  • developing strategies that improve OSH but also foster innovation,
  • combining the rational logic of prevention and safety management systems with ethical or value-driven approaches,
  • developing the external stakeholder perspective for OSH, and involve and commit new powerful stakeholders in safety and health programs,
  • developing more integrated approaches to safety and health, whereby occupational safety and health are no longer isolated from public safety and health, product safety, and whereby the safety and health responsibilities of companies are no longer limited to their own site.

Supporting development of integrated approaches to occupational safety and health, corporate social responsibility can link occupational safety and health management with human resources, environment, profitability and productivity[7]. CSR can also help to mainstream occupational safety and health management activities aimed at providing reasonable working hours, ensuring a proper work-life balance, promoting health and well-being, preventing harassment in the workplace, appropriate protection of vulnerable groups such as e.g. migrant workers and workers with disabilities, young workers and elderly people etc. At the same time, development of OSH management system supports implementing Management systems CSR-related activities in the area of OSH[8].

CSR, and especially its internal dimension, inclusive of socially responsible practices concerning employees, is of particular importance for psychosocial risks management[9]. Implementing CSR-related activities positively influences job satisfaction and quality of working life. Findings of a survey that covered 3637 employees in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania indicate that employees’ assessments on various aspects of their job satisfaction are significantly higher in firms that are perceived as more engaged in CSR activities towards both their internal and external stakeholders[10]. The other survey performed among 361 Polish workers confirms that implementing socially responsible activities in the OSH area can positively influence social support, work satisfaction, relations between job demands and job control as well as work – life balance representing dimensions of the working life quality[8].

The CSR Guidelines for Psychosocial Risk Management developed in the PRIMA (Psychosocial Risk Management Excellence Framework) project can support companies in psychosocial risk management as a part of CSR. They provide also a list of key CSR indicators that enable the evaluation of psychosocial issues integration into systems and structures, company culture, learning and development of the organization and dialogue with stakeholders[11].

Supporting development of occupational safety and health management in the framework of corporate social responsibility

Since the 1990s various instruments have been created in the world with the aim of implementing CSR into management practices. The main instruments supporting socially responsible management are particularly codes of conduct and different types of guidance and standards. Some of them refer to specific areas of company’s management (quality, environmental or OSH management). The others indicate a way of integrating CSR issues within company’s management and can be implemented in different areas, including occupational safety and health. The guidelines related to sustainability reporting (such as the Global Reporting Initiative guidance) and the indexes developed to measure the sustainable performance of companies (such as Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes) can also contribute to improved OSH management.

Codes of conduct

A code of conduct is a formal statement defining principles, values, standards or rules of behaviour that guide the decisions, procedures and systems of an organization in a way that contributes to the welfare of its key stakeholders, and respects the rights of all constituents affected by its operations[12]. Codes can refer to different CSR-related issues, including occupational safety and health, and can be developed by different bodies. The European Commission has grouped the codes in the following main categories[13]:

  • inter-governmental codes developed by international organizations (e.g. ILO Tripartite declaration of principles concerning multinational enterprises and social policy, ILO Declaration on fundamental principles and rights at work, OECD Guidelines for multinational enterprises, UN Draft guidelines for companies);
  • model codes which can support developing companies’ codes (e.g. UN global compact, Amnesty International Human Rights Principles for Companies and the International Confederation’s of Free Trade Unions Basic Code of Labour Practice);
  • multi-stakeholder codes developed jointly by companies, trade unions and NGOs (e.g. Ethical Trading Initiative, Voluntary principles on security and human rights for the extractive sector);
  • international and European codes negotiated by the ‘social partners’ (e.g. European codes in the sectors of trade, textiles, wood and sugar, and framework agreements negotiated between multinational companies and international labour organisations);
  • trade association or sector-specific codes adopted by a group of companies in a particular industry;
  • company codes (adopted by a company).

International standards related to the area of occupational safety and health

The commonly known international standards which can support the implementation of CSR within the OSH area are:

  • ILO-OSH-2001 Guidance on occupational safety and health management systems,
  • OHSAS 18 000 Occupational Health and Safety Assessment Series (including OHSAS 18001 and OHSAS 18 002);
  • SA 8000.


ILO-OSH-2001 is a voluntary guidance on OSH management systems that has been developed by International Labour Organization (ILO). It is intended to support effective, systematic occupational safety and health management at national as well as at company’s level. The guidance emphasizes the need to integrate the elements of company’s OSH management system into policy and management arrangements. Guidance is intended to motivate all the people working in a company to implement appropriate OSH management principles and methods to continually improve the OSH performance[14].

OHSAS 18 000

OHSAS 18 000[15] series consists of two standards:

  • OHSAS 18 001, i.e. an international specification for OSH management system that can be used for certification and/or self-declaration purposes,
  • OHSAS 18002 provides guidance for implementation of OSHSAS 108001.

The OHSAS standards are intended to support and promote good practices in the area of health and safety in balance with socio-economic needs. The standards refer to occupational health and safety defined as: “conditions and factors that affect, or could affect, the health and safety of employees or other workers (including temporary workers and contractor personnel), visitors, or any other person in the workplace" and do not address other health and safety areas such as employee wellbeing/wellness programs as well as product safety, property damage or environmental impacts.

Social Accountability 8000

Social Accountability 8000 (SA 8000) standard has been launched by Social Accountability International[16], a non-governmental and non-profit organization. The aim of the standard is “to promote workers’ rights and enable employers to sustainably implement a systems-based approach to ensuring decent work and working conditions". Social responsibility requirements defined in the standard are related to child labour, forced labour, health and safety, freedom of association and right to collective bargaining, discrimination, discipline, working hours, compensation and management systems. Companies can confirm compliance with the given standard’s requirements by external certification.

International standards and guidance on corporate social responsibility

The international standards and guidance on how to implement CSR in overall management include first of all:

  • ISO 26000 Guidance on social responsibility,
  • AA(AccountAbility)1000 — A stakeholder engagement framework,
  • EFQM (European Foundation for Quality Management) model for business excellence.

ISO 26 000

ISO 26 000 guidance published in 2010 was developed involving experts from more than 90 countries representing six different stakeholder groups: consumers, government, industry, labour, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and service, support, research, academics and others. The guidance is intended to support organizations in understanding and implementing social responsibility. It presents:

  • the characteristics of social responsibility and its relationship with sustainable development,
  • the principles of social responsibility,
  • the core subjects of social responsibility including: organizational governance, human rights, labour practices, the environment, fair operating practices, consumer issues and community involvement and development, related issues, actions and expectations,
  • guidance on the relationship between an organization, its stakeholders and society, on recognizing the core subjects and issues of social responsibility and on an organization's sphere of influence,
  • the guidance for integrating social responsibility throughout organization’s decisions and activities, including guidance related to: understanding the social responsibility of an organization, integrating social responsibility throughout an organization, communication related to social responsibility, improving the credibility of an organization regarding social responsibility, reviewing progress and improving performance and evaluating voluntary social responsibility initiatives..

It provides also examples of voluntary social responsibility initiatives and tools.

In ISO 26 000, the issues related to occupational health and safety are mainly included in the core subject “Labour practices" (e.g. issues “Health and safety at work" and “Human development and training in the workplace"); however, they can be found also in other core subjects. An example is an issue “Fundamental principles and rights at work", which is included in core subject Human rights.

AA1000 standards

The AA1000 standards have been developed by the Institute for Social and Ethical Accountability (also known as AccountAbility[17]) in 1999. The AA1000 series consists of the three following standards:

  • AA1000APS (2008) AccountAbility Principles – provide a framework for understanding, governance, implementation, evaluation and communication of organizations’ accountability;
  • AA1000AS (2008) Assurance Standard – provides a framework for conducting assurance on the nature and extent of an organisation’s understanding of and response to, its non-financial sustainability issues and on the quality of information on sustainability performance.
  • AA1000SES (2005) Stakeholder Engagement Standard – provides a basis for establishing, implementing,

evaluating and assuring the quality of a stakeholder’s engagement.

The series is supported by Guidance Notes and User Notes. The Guidance Notes, for example, Guidance for the use of AA1000AS (2008), provide information on how to apply the standards. The User Notes provide also examples of the use of standards.

EFQM Excellence Model

The EFQM Excellence Model has been developed in 1991 by the European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM). This model is a practical self-assessment tool that can support companies in identifying their strengths and weaknesses in relation to their vision and mission, in integrating existing and planned initiatives and in developing their management systems. The model is based on nine criteria grouped as in “enablers" and “results". The following enablers characterize processes, structure and resources as well as drive the results:

  • Leadership
  • Policy and strategy
  • People
  • Partnerships and resources
  • Processes

The result criteria are related to different aspects of company’s performance and include:

  • Customer results
  • People results
  • Society results
  • Key performance results

Each of the model criterions consists of a number of sub-criteria illustrated by examples called areas to address, and measurements. The EFQM model can support CSR implementation and can be used as self-assessment tool for the national or European Quality Awards.

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Sustainability Reporting Guidance

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) was launched in 1997 to become a worldwide, multi-stakeholder network including representatives of business, civil society, labour, investors, accountants and other stakeholders. The GRI Sustainability Reporting Guidelines consist of Reporting Principles, Reporting Guidance, and Standard Disclosures (including Performance Indicators). They are intended to be used as a framework for voluntary reporting on economic, environmental, and social performance of an organization. In the guidance, social performance indicators are categorized by Labour, Human Rights, Society, and Product Responsibility. For each category core and additional performance indicators have been defined. In the area of occupational health and safety, core performance indicators are related to injury rates, occupational diseases, lost days, absenteeism, total number of work-related fatalities and also to education, training, counselling and prevention and risk-control programs implemented to assist workforce members, their families or community members regarding serious diseases[18].

The Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes (DJSI)

The Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes (DJSI) track the performance of the companies leading in terms of corporate sustainability and include sustainability leaders. The Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes consist of a global, European, North American, Asia Pacific and Korean set of indexes. The leading companies are identified in 57 industry groups on the basis of a systematic assessment. For each group app. 50 general and industry-specific criteria are used to assess economic, environmental and social performance. The criteria are related in particular to codes of conduct, compliance, corporate governance, risk and crisis management, environmental reporting, corporate citizenship, philanthropy, labour practices, human capital development, social reporting and talent attraction and retention. Occupational health and safety is also included in assessment. The criteria for occupational health and safety take into account among others early identification of OHS-related risks and incentives to promote health, safety and well-being of workers. The methodology of assessment is continuously updated[19].

National standards and guidance on corporate social responsibility

Different types of standards or guidance have been developed in a lot of countries with the aim of supporting implementing corporate social responsibility in companies. They can also help to implement CSR-related activities in the area of OSH. Some examples of such guidance and standards are presented below.

Guide SD 21 000

Guide SD 21 000 was launched in 2003 by French Association of Technical Standards (Association Française de Normalisation, AFNOR) to help top management adapt their managerial practices and management system technically and culturally so that the systems could gradually incorporate the challenges of sustainable development. The guidance is flexible and can be applied to any type of management system. It is intended to support companies in taking their sustainable development into account when establishing policy and strategies and making strategic choices. Guidance is not intended for certification purposes.

Q-RES management framework

Q-RES management framework for the ethical and social responsibility of corporations was launched by Center for Ethics, Law & Economics (CELE) in Italy in 2001. The Q-RES framework consists of integrated and completed set of tools to introduce social and ethical responsibility in accordance with defining excellence criteria.

3.6.3. SIGMA

The SIGMA (sustainability integrated guidelines for management) guidance[20] was developed in the UK in 1999 in the project launched by the British Standards Institution, Forum for the Future and AccountAbility. The SIGMA Guidelines consist of a set of Guiding Principles that help organisations to understand sustainability and their contribution along with a Management Framework integrating sustainability issues into core processes decision-making.

The SIGMA Management Framework describes a four-phase cycle to manage sustainability issues within core organisational processes. The SIGMA toolkit supports the guidance and provides practical tools and guidelines to improve the management of sustainability issues and overall performance of organization.

CSR Performance Ladder

The CSR Performance Ladder[21] – Management System Requirements and Certification Standard for CSR was published in the Netherlands in 2010 by the Foundation of Sustained Responsibility. There is a certification standard based on management system requirements. It proposes 33 CSR performance indicators to evaluate the performance in the seven following areas:

  • corporate governance
  • labour conditions
  • human rights
  • fair trade
  • consumer interests
  • environment, raw materials, energy and emissions
  • commitment and contribution to society.

Factors influencing implementation of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

Among the factors identified as drivers to implementing CSR, the following are indicated as the most important by the companies’ representatives:[22][23]

  • top-level management support,
  • company culture and values,
  • company reputation,
  • brand image,
  • attracting and retaining employees,
  • more effective risk management,
  • profitability,
  • product development and innovation,
  • compliance with legislation and standards.

The main barriers indicated in the surveys include:

  • the lack of resources,
  • short term projects and lack of time,
  • conflicting priorities,
  • lack of market incentives,
  • lack of support at governmental level,
  • lack of knowledge,
  • lack of senior management support,
  • failure to delegate responsibility with sufficient resources or power to implement change,
  • attitudes and the personal motivation of employees.

Implementing CSR is usually related to better economic performance of a company. This has been confirmed, among others, by a research performed in 2006 in Polish 300 companies with different approach to CSR: the indicators characterizing economic performance were significantly better in a 150 companies that have implemented CSR[24].

Occupational safety and health issues are included in the companies’ CSR to a varying degree. Usually OHS is a significant part of corporate social responsibility in the companies operating in higher risk industries, such as chemical processing sector. In some other companies, occupational safety and health can be considered a relatively unimportant aspect of their CSR[25]. Increasing companies’ interest in developing OSH as a part of corporate social responsibility can be achieved in particular by raising awareness as to the occupational safety and health being a reputation risk issue because a company with poor OSH management can lose public trust and, in consequence, profit and shareholder value.


[1] WBCSD –World Business Council for Sustainable Development, Meeting Changing Expectations, WBCSD’s first report on corporate social responsibility, 1999, p.3. Available at:

[2] ILO – International Labour Organisation, ‘The ILO and Corporate Social Responsibility’, 2010. Available at:

[3] EC – European Commission, Green Paper “Promoting a European framework for Corporate Social Responsibility", Brussels, 18.7.2001, COM (2001) 366 final. Available at:

[4] ‘Guidance on social responsibility’, 2010. Available at:

[5] EU-OSHA – European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, ‘Corporate Social Responsibility and Health and safety at work’, 2004. Available at:

[6] Zwetsloot G.I.J.M., ‘Corporate Social Responsibility and Safety and Health at Work: Global Perspectives, Local Practices’, Working on Safety Conference, 7-10 September 2010, Røros, Norway. Available at:

[7] Montero M.J., Araque R.Z., Rey J.M., ‘Occupational health and safety in the framework of corporate social responsibility’, Safety Science 47 (2009) 1440–1445 . Available at:

[8] Pawlowska Z., ‘Zarządzanie bezpieczeństwem i higieną pracy a wdrażanie działań odpowiedzialnych społecznie’, Bezpieczeństwo Pracy- nauka i praktyka, 11/2009, pp.19-21. Available at:

[9] Jain A., Leka S., Zwetsloot G., ‘Corporate Social Responsibility and Psychosocial Risk Management in Europe’, Journal of Business Ethics, 02. 2011. Available at:

[10] Tamm K., Eamets R., Mõtsmees P., ‘Relationship between corporate social responsibility and job satisfaction: the case of Baltic countries’, Tartu, 2008. Available at:

[11] Zwetsloot G., Leka S., ‘Corporate Social Responsibility and Psychosocial Risk Management at Work’, 2008. Available at:

[12] IFAC – The International Federation of Accountants, ‘International Good Practice Guidance: Defining and Developing an Effective Code of Conduct for Organizations’, 2007. Available at:

[13] EC – European Commission, Directorate-General for Employment and Social Affairs, ‘ABC of the main instruments of Social Responsibility’, 2004. Available at:

[14] ILO – International Labour Organisation, ILO-OSH-2001 ‘Guidance on occupational safety and health management systems’, ILO, 2001. Available at:—en/docName--WCMS_107727/index.htm

[15] OHSAS 18 000 Occupational Health and Safety Assessment Series, 2007. Available at:

[16] SAI – Social Accountability International, Social Accountability 8000 (SA 8000 Standard), 2008 year of publishing. Available at:

[17] AccountAbility, ‘The AA1000 standards. Available at:

[18] GRI – Global Reporting Initiative, Sustainability Reporting Guidelines, 2000-2011. Available at:

[19] Dow Jones Sustainability World Index, Guide Book, Version 11.5, 2011. Available at:

[20] The Sigma Guidance: Putting Sustainable Development Into Practice – A Guide For Organisations, Available at:

[21] The CSR Performance Ladder – Management System Requirements and Certification Standard for CSR, 2010. Available at:

[22] Legendre A.L., ‘Drivers for corporate social responsibility and sustainable practice in Australia’, Green Capital and CSR Sydney, May 2008. 

[23] Arlbjørn J. S., Warming-Rasmussen B., van Liempd D., Mikkelsen O.S., ‘A European Survey on Corporate Social Responsibility’, University of Southern Denmark, 2008. Available at:

[24] Bak M., Bednarz P., Kulawczuk P., Rataj R., Szcześniak A., Zając P., ‘Analiza korzyści ekonomicznych ze stosowania zasad społecznej odpowiedzialności biznesu w polskich przedsiębiorstwach’, Instytut Badań nad Demokracją i Przedsiębiorstwem Prywatnym, 2007. Available at:

[25] Sowden P., Sinha S., Promoting health and safety as a key goal of the Corporate Social Responsibility agenda, Research Report 339, Health and Safety Executive, 2005.

Further reading

EU-OSHA – European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, Corporate social responsibility and safety and health at work, Report, Bilbao, 2004. Available at:

Jain A., Leka S., Zwetsloot G., ‘Integrating CSR and OSH Policies and Initiatives in Europe: The Drivers, Challenges, and Roles of Companies’, Civil Society and Governments, CSR PAPER 35,. 2008, 2008. Available at:

Sacconi L., de Colle S., Baldin E., Wieland J., Oakley R., Zadek S.& Cohen J. ‘Developing a CSR Framework to integrate Q-RS and other social and ethical standards’, 2003. Available at:

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Aditya Jain

Nottingham University Business School
Klaus Kuhl

Zofia Pawlowska