Top 5 Environmental, Health and Safety Trends to Watch in 2024

2024 written on a road at sunset with graphics describing forward and upward movement

Where is Environment, Health and Safety heading?

The landscape of Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) is rapidly evolving.

We’re dealing with changing regulations, and advancements in technology, plus an ever-growing awareness of sustainability and drive towards net zero. 

It’s not a sector that stands still.

The pandemic triggered the biggest shift in the way we work. We’ve seen the physical location of our ‘offices’ change with the spread of remote working, resulting in people now expecting more flexibility from their employers when it comes to workspaces. 

The digital technologies that make this possible have been universally adopted, and whilst worth mentioning in this article, they are not a topic I’m going to dwell on.

Variety – The Spice of Life?

At Brookfields, I have the privilege of working with a range of different clients across varying sectors. Combining this with my continuous personal development means I am able to keep abreast of where workplace safety and environmental management is heading. 

Here are the top five EHS trends that gained traction in 2023 and which I believe are the trends to watch in 2024.

1. Psychological Safety & Mental Health

Physical health is still high on the list of priorities, and so it should be. But there is a whole other area of safety that is, quite rightly, receiving a lot more attention. I do not foresee this being a fad, and the attention it is getting will not fade.

Back in 2021, the International Organization for Standardization (the main ISO body) published ISO 45003 – psychological health and safety at work. This is the first global standard giving practical guidance on managing psychological health and safety at work.

I believe that in 2024 more organisations will adopt this standard. Even those who do not will continue to implement comprehensive health and wellness initiatives.  This will include promoting a positive safety culture and providing more resources to support mental health in the workplace.

And remember, this is about more than preventing mental health illness, and is instead about providing for the wellness of your employees, so that they are both mentally and physically safe at work.

businesswoman cross legged on the floor meditating at work with a group of coworkers

2. Developing a Company Wide Safety Culture

Health and Safety is not just about steel toe-capped boots, hard hats and boiler suits anymore. It’s about creating a top-down culture that puts safety first. Workplace safety used to be about protecting employees in the office or plant. Now it has extended to remote workers, business travel and even to the time when employees have ‘clocked out’ for the day.

The term ‘workplace culture’ has recently become trendy – it refers to the way things are done inside a company. Extending this to include a company-wide safety culture is the next imperative. In fact, I believe it’s critical when moving safety to the next notch.

The idea of developing your safety culture may seem daunting, especially if you’re faced with a long-standing attitude of ‘that’s the way we have always done it’.  However, that type of complacency can result in accidents, injuries or illness, which no one wants to happen.

The answer to this? Building a safety culture.

I believe that there will be more of a holistic approach in 2024 that not only enhances workplace safety and employee satisfaction, but also contributes to a safer and more productive work environment.

3. More Sustainability Reporting

The EU is bringing sustainability reporting in line with financial reporting. With the introduction of the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD), the new framework will be rolled out in a phased approach from 2024. Whilst the UK is not part of the EU, the CSRD will affect some UK incorporated companies. 

The CSRD will impact more companies than any other piece of sustainability legislation, raising the bar on ESG reporting. This legislation will impact large businesses to begin with, namely those meeting two of the three requirements – net turnover of more than €40 million; balance sheet assets greater than €20 million and/or more than 250 employees.

Small and medium businesses will come into scope further down the line. Due to growing demand for transparency, it is likely that businesses not directly within scope will see investor pressure to publish information in line with the CSRD.

It’s all about data! 

And the CSRD data requirements are intense – there are over 1,000 data points to report on, across 10 key ESG topics. Crucially, it ensures that sustainability reporting is front of mind for large and medium size businesses, and for the first time, the CSRD defines a common reporting framework for non-financial data.

tablet with graphs showing ecological analysis of growth and sustainability

4. No More Greenwashing

‘Greenwashing’ refers to statements or marketing made about products so that they seem more sustainable than they actually are. It’s not well thought of now, and will be fought against even harder in 2024. 

The EU banned greenwashing through the Green Claims Directive, which aims to prevent companies making unclear or unsubstantiated environmental claims, or using labels that are not credible. The goal of this Directive is to enable consumers to make genuine sustainable choices. Environmental claims may only be made if they meet certain minimum criteria, and are independently verified by a third-party assessment body.

As a result, many companies are likely to review their marketing tactics to ensure they don’t fall subject to greenwashing. The consequences of failing to do so could mean a loss of customers, investors and damage to their brand image.

At the same time, we are seeing more scrutiny of the use of carbon offsets.

An investigation in 2023 by the Guardian, Die Zeit (a German weekly) and SourceMaterial (a not for profit investigative journalism organisation), revealed that forest carbon offsets approved by the world’s leading certifier are largely worthless.  As a result, the carbon offsetting market is under investigation, and “phantom credits” will hopefully be off the market.

5. Scope 3 Emissions and Supply Chain Transparency

Many companies that report on their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have historically steered clear of Scope 3.  The Greenhouse Gas Protocol provides the most widely recognised standards for greenhouse gas emissions and categories these into three ‘scopes’. 

  • Scope 1 covers the direct emissions from owned or controlled sources, such as fuel combustion and company vehicles. 
  • Scope 2 covers indirect emissions from the purchase, such as use of electricity, heating and cooling during use – by using the energy the business is indirectly responsible for the release of these GHG emissions. 
  • Scope 3 includes all other direct emissions that occur, both in the upstream and downstream activities, such as waste disposal, employee commuting, purchase of goods and services etc.

Companies will not be able to avoid addressing their supply chain for much longer, and the trend for data analysis is on the increase. Companies will place more emphasis on their supply chains as they establish Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG)-focused procurement policies and work with their suppliers to improve on data collection, as well as their environmental impact.

2024 Will Be a Defining Year

In 2023, EHS was tested – from mental health awareness to ESG. From the rollout of mandatory climate disclosures, to the growing expectation that employees are better cared for, 2024 will be the year that we see companies take EHS seriously.

It will no longer be an add-on, but rather a core element of business strategy.

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