ASSE Hosts Sustainability Symposium in Washington, DC

In conjunction with NAOSH Week 2014, ASSE hosted a symposium on May 7 at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, titled “The Human Cost of Cheap Labor.” The event focused on occupational safety and health in global workforce sustainability and featured speakers who shared different perspectives on the topic of sustainability.


Kathy Seabrook speaks at the NAOSH Week 2014 “The Human Cost of Cheap Labor” symposium.

Appropriately enough, as ASSE President Kathy A. Seabrook, CSP, CFIOSH, EurOSHM, pointed out, the event was scheduled on NAOSH Week’s Occupational Safety and Health Professionals’ Day, a day to recognize safety professionals for the work they do. “Our job is to think about what is the next big thing,” Seabrook said. “Sustainability is a moving object; things are changing.”

Seabrook welcomed those in attendance, which included SH&E professionals, stakeholders and members of the press, and introduced ASSE’s NAOSH Week counterparts from Canadian Society of Safety Engineering and AISOHMEX, Peter Strum and Victoriano Anguis, respectively. OSHA Deputy Assistant Secretary Jordan Barab also addressed participants before the featured presentations began. “We don’t hear enough about sustainability in the workplace and I congratulate you for choosing the subject,” Barab said. “We need to leverage resources, and we thank ASSE for helping spread the message for us.”


Robert Eccles discusses corporate sustainability and how it affects performance and practices.

The event was jammed-packed with speakers, all who contributed to the topic of sustainability. Robert Eccles, professor at Harvard Business School and author of three books on corporate reporting, spoke on his extensive research concerning integrated reporting and corporate sustainability. In an interview before his presentation, Eccles touched on the importance of integrated reporting as it can relate to safety. “What integrated reporting does, as people who care about safety, is it gives them the opportunity to make the case for why safety performance belongs in integrated reporting,” Eccles said. “But, I think people have to be practical about it. . . . In cases where performance is material, and [safety professionals] have to make the case to the company and ultimately to the board, then an integrated report is an effective way to communicate that information in the context of all other information,” he said.

Jay Harf presents "Meeting the Global Business Challenge: What Makes Workforce Sustainability Work"

Jay Harf presents “Meeting the Global Business Challenge: What Makes Workforce Sustainability Work”


Tom Cecich presents “If Corporations are Sustainable, Why Are so Many Workers Dying: The Business Case for Workforce Sustainability.”

Additional speakers included ASSE 2014-15 Senior Vice President Elect Tom Cecich, CSP, CIH, chair of The Center of Safety and Health Sustainability (CSHS); Jay Harf, assistant vice president EH&E Americas, L’Oreal USA Inc. ; and Garrett D. Brown, Maquiladora Health & Safety Support Network coordinator. Cecich, who talked about making the business case for workforce sustainability, touched on a 2013 CSHS study that showed gaps and a lack of transparency in occupational safety and health sustainability reporting among organizations rated highly for sustainability performance, illustrating that safety is not yet perceived as an important factor in sustainability. “Safety needs to be part of the conversation,” Cecich said. “We need to gather data to determine where safety fits in.”

Be sure to check out the July 2014 issue Professional Safety for more information on this event.