December at-a-glance … regulations

Stay continues, comments sought on OSHA vaccine mandate

The U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration’s (OSHA) was ordered by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to take no action until further notice on its Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) requiring employers with 100 or more employees to implement a COVID-19 vaccine mandate or testing alternative. In the meantime, OSHA extended until Jan. 19 its request for comments on the ETS.

NAFEM submits comments that proposed Prop 65 rule doesn’t apply to members

NAFEM submitted comments to California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) regarding its intention to require warning labels for possible acrylamide exposure. “NAFEM encourages OEHHA to clarify the scope of necessary Proposition 65 warnings to those entities that actually are cooking, preparing or otherwise creating food products, and not the entities that manufacture the commercial equipment used in the creation of such products.” Acrylamide is a chemical that is formed in certain plant-based foods during cooking or processing at high temperatures, such as frying, roasting, grilling, and baking.

CSR, or ESG, initiatives attracting more attention; future regulations likely

Increasingly, companies’ corporate social responsibility (CSR), or more formally their environmental, social and governance (ESG), commitments are prioritized among investors, nongovernmental organizations, communities, customers, employees and others. “The conversation is amplifying about enterprise value creation and how profits are achieved without negative consequences,” said Tammy Helminski, NAFEM legal counsel, Barnes & Thornburg. Many believe that ESG regulations are not far away as the world grapples with climate change, human rights and other important issues.

In 2019, 181 CEO’s of America’s largest corporations adopted a new Statement of the Purpose of the Corporation stating that companies should not only serve their shareholders but also should “deliver value to customers, invest in employees, deal fairly with suppliers and support the communities in which they operate.” To help companies measure and report on financial material sustainability topics, the Sustainable Accounting Standards Board introduced uniform standards that complement the comprehensive Global Reporting Initiative standards.

This is important to NAFEM members for two reasons:

  • Companies of all sizes are increasing called upon to discuss their ESG priorities and progress by customers, employees, communities and others.
  • Customers expect suppliers’ activities to ladder up to their public ESG commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, water withdrawal and waste generation; ensure that human rights are protected along the entire value chain; and other environmental and societal goals.

Today’s interest in ESG initiatives, or the triple bottom line that includes financial success combined with social and environmental impacts, has its roots in the early 1970s when the concept of a social contract between companies and society was introduced by the Committee for Economic Development. By the early 2000s, multinational, publicly held companies were publishing Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) reports detailing their progress toward measurable societal commitments. At the same time, United Nations (U.N.) Secretary-General Kofi Annan encouraged major financial institutions and other investors to consider companies’ progress toward the human rights, environmental, anti-corruption and other tenents of the U.N. Global Compact in investment decisions. Today, investors and others closely monitor companies’ contributions to helping achieve the 2030 U.N. Sustainable Development Goals that “provide a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future.”