64 Talking about health – how to communicate ethical occupational health issues?

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Should we introduce fitness trackers to our company’s health program? Should we, moreover, start giving positive or negative incentives for individual fitness performances (e.g. bonuses)? Since companies have felt profoundly convinced by the correlation between occupational health activities and economic success, occupational health management (OHM) becomes popular. With the rise of OHM multiple ethical problems, new to the business context, appeared. How are and how should these ethical problems be communicated inside and outside a company? One possible answer to this is corporate social responsibility (CSR). CSR already has the potential to communicate and discuss ethical corporate health issues. Only a proper framework is still missing.


Qualitative interviews were completed with small, medium and large German and Swiss companies, their stakeholders, customers and industry representatives. They all were asked questions regarding ethical communication strategies inside and outside companies and in particular questions about structural intersections between OHM and CSR.


The study shows that, if it comes to occupational health, most companies do not use the existing CSR-tools to communicate ethical heath issues. Usually the few existing intersections between OHM and CSR are not meant to point out or discuss ethical problems within OHM, but to promote the company’s image. Not surprisingly, the stakeholders as well as the industry representatives emphasise the companies’ voluntary assumption of responsibility.


Most CSR strategies already contain ways to address and communicate ethical problems (e.g. whistle-blower hotline, companies’ suggestion systems). Whatsoever, these strategies usually are not applied to OHM. The social and ethical arguments considered in CSR as well as its strong attachment to the company’s strategy could pave the way for an ethical OHM. In reverse, an ethical OHM will arguably have a positive reinforcement on CSR activities.

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