In 1987, the United Nations Brundtland Commission defined sustainability as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Sustainability is not only what we commonly think of as “green” – although environmental protection is critical to a sustainable future for us all. Sustainability is the broader ability to continue important functions indefinitely and to thrive in the face of change. Sustainability is building resilience into your enterprise in an age of labor shortages and attacks on your company’s ability to operate.
In an increasingly digital world, the relationship between cybersecurity, safety, and sustainability has become undeniable. As technology permeates every aspect of our lives, ensuring the security of our digital infrastructure and protecting the personal safety of human resources are crucial elements in the pursuit of a sustainable future. The interconnectedness of cybersecurity and safety is essential for achieving long-term sustainability and resilience.
Increasingly, environmental protection also requires more data-driven operations to achieve efficiencies, provide accurate Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) reporting, and meet ESG goals. These reporting requirements increase data sharing across business and value chains, which increase cybersecurity risks.
Cybersecurity serves as the first line of defense against malicious actors seeking to exploit vulnerabilities in our digital ecosystem. The protection of critical infrastructure and eco-industries, particularly power grids, transportation networks, pipelines, water/wastewater operations, and others are crucial for a sustainable society. Breaches and attacks can and have disrupted essential services leading to significant economic losses and environmental damage, even to companies not considered critical infrastructure. By implementing robust cybersecurity measures, organizations can safeguard against data breaches, fraud, and disruptions, ensuring the uninterrupted functioning of a company. Robust measures provide resilience by preventing successful attacks and recovering quickly from any that are successful.
Sustainable practices also prioritize the well-being of workers. Ensuring worker safety is a fundamental aspect of promoting human rights and protecting their health, dignity, and quality of life. Unsafe working conditions lead to injuries, illnesses, and even fatalities, compromising the well-being of workers and their families.
Moreover, the availability of labor has become a critical issue to the sustainability and resilience of many companies. Protecting workers from injury and illness not only helps ensure the continued availability of the people currently operating and maintaining equipment, but also helps maintain a reputation as a good place to work for potential employees you hope to hire in the future.
Unsafe working conditions can negatively impact productivity and efficiency. Accidents, injuries, and health issues can result in absenteeism, decreased morale, and reduced productivity among workers. Conversely, prioritizing worker safety helps create a healthier and more motivated workforce, leading to increased productivity, improved efficiency, and reduced operational disruptions contributing to the long-term sustainability of an organization.
By prioritizing worker safety, sustainable practices contribute to social equity and a better quality of life for workers. In fact, I’d suggest that worker safety is the most fundamental of sustainable practices.
As we forge ahead into an increasingly digitized future, the intersection of cybersecurity, safety, and sustainability becomes ever more critical. By recognizing their interconnectedness, we can foster a secure digital ecosystem, protect personal safety, and build sustainable communities. Embracing robust cybersecurity practices and integrating safety considerations will enable us to navigate the complexities of the digital age while securing a sustainable and prosperous future.