The road to hell: Worker health, safety and wellbeing within UK corporate social responsibility practices

Sherratt, Fred and Sherratt, Simon (2017) The road to hell: Worker health, safety and wellbeing within UK corporate social responsibility practices. In: Proceedings 33rd Annual ARCOM Conference, 4-6 September 2017, Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, UK. Association of Researchers in Construction Management.

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Abstract

Construction work is often unsafe, unhealthy and bad for worker wellbeing. Governments and companies have sought to address this, the former through legislation, the latter through their compliance. More recently there have been efforts by larger construction companies to ‘go beyond’ minimum standards, incorporating worker Health, Safety and Wellbeing (HSW) within their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) remit, seeking innovations and improvements in practice. Yet this has brought challenges of commodification, worker health enhancement and wellbeing initiatives readily packaged and used to support the corporate brand and increase organisational attractiveness. Furthermore, when viewed through a Marxist lens such commodification increases in complexity, workers contributing a portion of their own HSW as part of the necessary increase in exchange value found within the capitalist mode of production. Yet this reveals the fundamental conflict between capitalism and worker HSW, implying that a ‘business case’ for worker HSW can never truly be made. Even when generated by good intentions, it is arguable that HSW CSR initiatives are implemented to the benefit of the company, whilst the work remains detrimental to the workers, a problem further compounded by the use of long supply chains and subcontracting that often hides their true identity. CSR in its contemporary incarnations is failing to acknowledge such problems inherent in the capitalist system, and instead, perhaps more dangerously, is contributing to the illusion that construction worker HSW has never been better taken care of, an unintended consequence of such seemingly altruistic ventures. Taking a critical perspective of CSR, and specifically HSW practices found under its umbrella, this paper challenges the ideas of benevolent business practice, decries the notion of CSR within the contemporary neo-liberal doctrine, and questions whether construction should not be doing better in terms of ‘true’ CSR within its hazardous and harmful operations.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Additional Information: Full citation: Sherratt, F and Sherratt, S (2017) The Road To Hell: Worker Health, Safety And Wellbeing Within UK Corporate Social Responsibility Practices. In: Chan, P W (Ed.) and Neilson, C J (Ed.), Proceedings 33rd Annual ARCOM Conference, 4-6 September 2017, Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, UK. Association of Researchers in Construction Management, 389-398
Keywords: business case, Corporate Social Responsibility, health, Marxism, wellbeing, CSR
Faculty: ARCHIVED Faculty of Science & Technology (until September 2018)
Depositing User: Fred Sherratt
Date Deposited: 28 Sep 2017 14:48
Last Modified: 28 Feb 2019 10:12
URI: http://arro.anglia.ac.uk/id/eprint/702219

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