GE is not alone in working with suppliers that face significant environmental, health, social, human rights and security issues. We realized a long time ago that these challenges, especially in some of the fastest-growing economies, were bigger than what any one organization—even one as big as GE—could address alone. One of the biggest needs in these economies is the development of local expertise to manage environment, health and safety (EHS) issues and labor rights.
EHS+ Centers in South Asia
Since 2006, the GE Foundation has supported the development and expansion of the EHS+ Network, an innovative group of training centers in China, Bangladesh and India established by the Institute for Sustainable Communities (ISC). The first EHS+ Center, established at Lingnan College of Zhongshan University in China’s Guangdong province, has provided comprehensive environment, health, safety and energy training for factory managers since 2007, and now operates independently of ISC.
The success in Guangdong led to the creation of a second high-quality training center in Jiangsu in 2009, which is now self-supporting. ISC launched its third EHS+ Center at North South University in Dhaka, Bangladesh, in 2013, following the Rana Plaza collapse and Tazreen fire disasters; this Center focuses on training managers in Bangladesh’s fast-growing ready-made garment industry. With strong support from GE, the India EHS+ Center was launched in 2015, and is training managers in the automotive and heavy-engineering industries at client sites and at its base at the Symbiosis Institute of Business Management, in Pune. In total, the EHS+ Centers have provided training to 38,793 managers from more than 11,700 suppliers and representing more than 150 brands.
ISC’s holistic and comprehensive approach to training, along with its cost-effective training packages and high-quality curricula, has created strong demand for the EHS+ Network. Reducing risk, pollution and energy use in Asian factories demands well-trained, knowledgeable and effective managers, and the EHS+ Network is designed to connect these centers in China, Bangladesh and India, allowing them to share curriculum, operational processes and best practices to improve factory performance in a broad range of industries.
Government Collaboration & HOP
GE requests suppliers be proactive about EHS management by putting in place systems to assess risks and mitigate problems early on. To support this, GE has developed a web-based tool for self-assessment called ‘Help-kit’, which suppliers can use to evaluate their own practices and avoid repeated problems. A case library of real-life examples of common issues helps suppliers to recognize potential dangers.
By invitation, GE’s Director of Sustainability for Asia Pacific, delivered a three-hour lecture on HOP at the State Administration of Work Safety (SAWS) headquarters in Beijing on January 21, 2016. This is the first time that any company has introduced a new safety procedure to SAWS. The session was attended by nearly a hundred invited participants.
Read more about the HOP lecture delivered to SAWS here.
In September 2016, senior government officials at SAWS approached GE to chair the “The 8th International Safety Forum” in Beijing. Leaders from GE’s global and business sourcing and EHS teams came together with peer companies, government and trade union officials, financial groups and suppliers to share best practices on supplier capacity building through energy and water efficiency improvement, and discussed applying an advanced safety principle— Human Organization Performance (HOP)—to transform supplier safety culture.
Suppliers who attended the Forum shared with GE that the most helpful aspects of GE’s Supplier Responsibility Guidelines (SRG) audits have been in keeping track of sustainable development trends, making them more competitive in their industry. Today, the most advanced suppliers are developing management systems, building advanced safety programs like HOP, and integrating processes to address issues and risks before they develop into problems.
Good companies boost productivity by preventing accidents, but the best companies improve safety performance by the way of improving productivity. The employee culture is dynamic and changing, and simply asking companies to comply with regulations or company policies is not effective in preventing injuries or accidents!
—as noted by the U.S. Ambassador to China, during the 8th International Safety Forum in Beijing