Advances in data management and analytics have changed the way businesses engage with their investors. Leading companies have also earned significant returns on IT investments by using this information to drive better and timelier decision-making.
However, many have overlooked the benefits of advanced data analytics in assessing environmental, health and safety (EHS) performance. Data and analytics are an integral part of leading EHS management programs and can contribute to reductions in incidents and operational overheads that directly impact the bottom line, improve employee morale, strengthen the reputation of the business and provide a point of differentiation with investors.
Every year, it is estimated that there are 2.8 million deaths attributed to work,with an estimated total cost of over US$3 trillion. The biggest share of work-related mortality comes from work-related diseases (estimated at over 85%), with fatal accidents accounting for the remainder. The US Department of Labor estimates that occupational injuries and illnesses cost US businesses US$170 billion annually, and a 2015 study by the National Safety Council estimated that the average workplace injury can cost a company approximately US$40,000 in compensation, productivity, and medical and administrative expenses. The costs of a workplace fatality are, of course, higher and can exceed US$1 million.
These numbers do not include indirect costs such as negative impacts on employee morale and productivity, legal fees, property damage, the impacts on families and communities, and the reputation of the business. These indirect costs can be several times higher than the direct costs.
Separately, there are also significant direct and indirect costs associated with environmental compliance and incidents. For example, in 2016 in the US, companies paid over US$19.5 billion in environmental fines, clean-up fees and other monetary commitments resulting from US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) enforcement actions. Recent changes in the regulatory landscape, such as the European Union Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) and Conflict Minerals in the US, have resulted in complex data collection and reporting requirements that are resource-intensive to manage without the appropriate IT systems.
As awareness increases that EHS incidents can incur such significant costs, it is more likely that investors expect companies to provide more in-depth data on performance and proposed plans to respond to problem areas.
The question then becomes: can data analytics support better EHS disclosure and improved future performance?