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Responsible businesses, healthy places to work?

20.11.2006
A study into the relationship between an organisation’s understanding and use of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and its health and safety practices has revealed problems within the small- and medium-sized (SME) business sector.

A report by Dr Stavroula Leka and Johanna Churchill from the Institute of Work, Health and Organisations at The University of Nottingham claims there is a lack of knowledge in the areas of both CSR and occupational health and that leadership can be a considerable barrier to the prevention of health and safety problems.

CSR is about how business takes account of the economic, social and environmental impact of the way it operates and the voluntary actions that it can take, over and above compliance within minimum legal requirements, to balance its own competitive interests with the interests of society. The guiding principles of CSR are trust, accountability and transparency. The research suggests this is not an easy task for SMEs.

The study, recently presented at the European Academy of Occupational Health Psychology in Dublin, found that almost 70 per cent of enterprises had not heard of the term CSR before, while around 80 per cent had good awareness of safety issues but lacked awareness of occupational health issues.

Awareness of both CSR and occupational health was better in medium-sized firms and the service and professional sectors.

The SME sector is seen as a ‘boom’ area in both Europe and the UK. SMEs are the predominant employer in both the UK and Europe, with 23 million SMEs across Europe in 25 member states. They employ in excess of 75 million people; in the UK alone there are more than 4.3 million SMEs.

Dr Stavroula Leka said: “Effective targeting of occupational health and safety initiatives is vital to this sector, particularly in view of the fact that those working for SMEs are more likely to be affected by health and safety issues.”

Under the responsibility of Margaret Hodge, Minister for Industry and the Regions, CSR is seen by the UK Government as an integral part of delivering sustainable economic growth and business prosperity.

It is hoped that the results from The University of Nottingham study will be used as a framework to promote a more preventative agenda for occupational health and safety, through the adoption of CSR practices.

Emma Thorne | alfa
Further information:
http://www.nottingham.ac.uk

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