An interesting article in Workforce Management about the prevalence of bedbugs in the workplace caused me to ponder about the Corporate Responsibility of businesses to ensure a bedbug free workplace.
Apparently commercial offices are beoming increasingly susceptible to bedbugs, as employees unwittingly bring bugs into the workplace from, one can assume, their own beds (or wherever they happened to sleep, I suppose. Better not ask too many questions). Bedbugs are incredibly versatile and adaptable and can infest "practically any soft surface like chairs, rugs, sofas and even cubicle dividers". This is clearly a concerning situation, which all employers should be aware of. Any business who has chairs, rugs, sofas and cubicle dividers should be on the alert. I believe it is the Corporate Responsibility of all businesses to forbid entry to bedbugs in all workplaces and refrain from complicity in bedbug workplace infestation. At this point I would like to commend Vestergaard Frandsen, an interesting business operating under its own Humanitarian Entrepreneurship business model who offers in the company's 2009 Corporate Responsibility Report a solution to the bedbug disaster in the form of a thin layer of woven cloth impregnated with insecticide that you stick to the walls of your home, office, meeting room or cubicle, to inhibit the spread of bedbugs and other little gatecrashers. This treatment is effective for three years, at which point you should renew the sheet or start scratching.
The timing of this bedbug alert is actually quite fortuitous, as the GRI has announced their intention to work on the G4 version of the Reporting Framework, to be ready by the end of 2012. This is the perfect time to introduce a set of bedbug performance indicators. I would suggest a new section in the G4 called BB Performance Indicators. Here are my suggested indicators:
Aspect: Bedbug Demography
BB 1. Number of bedbugs found on company premises by gender, location and source
BB 2. Number of bedbug fatalities due to employee brutality on discovering bedbugs in their offices
BB 3. Number of bedbugs attending Executive Leadership meetings without an invitation
Aspect: Employee Health and Safety
BB 4. Number of employes falling sick due to bedbug bites
BB 5. Number of bedbugs falling sick due to employee bites
BB 6. Number of walls treated with insecticide to kill off bedbugs
BB 7. Number of lost workdays due to employee sickness due to permanent exposure to insecticide.
BB 8: Number of hours spent on bedbug avoidance training
BB 9. Number of employees trained in bedbug prevention
BB 10. Number of employees complaining of having bedbugs in their offices
BB 11. Number of employee claiming discrinimation due to not having bedbugs in their offices
Aspect: Supply Chain
BB 12: Number of suppliers trained in bedbug avoidance
BB 13: Number of suppliers screened for bedbug free operations
Aspect: Employee Privacy
BB 14. Number of anonymous compaints about bedbugs recieved from employees
BB 15. If the complaints were anonymous, how do you know they were from employees?
BB 16: Number of bedbugs released into the atmosphere (bedbug footprint)
BB 17: Total amount of bedbugs recycled and made into useful items such as jewellry or PC components or lunch
If every Company adopts these performance indicators in their CSR reports, we will very soon have an accurate picture of our global bedbug footprint and measures underway to reduce it. This would open up the possibility for an annual CSR Bedbug Elimination Award. Companies who demonstrate leadership in de-bedbugging would be elligible to pay to enter a global contest to determine the Best Bedbug-Free workplace.
Finally, I would also recommend that the United Nations Global Compact add an eleventh principle.
"Businesses should support and respect the protection of the internationally proclaimed human right to a bedbug free workplace and take measures to ensure a precautionary approach to bedbug avoidance".
Hmm. Wonder why Kofi didnt think of that.
Finally finally, because bedbugs can cause significant reputational damage, it is probably best if Companies do not include this in their CSR reports unless they can confirm 100% beyond compliance with bedbug legislation. After all, not everyone understands that bedbugs are not just for beds. Just like Chunky Monkey is not just for Monkeys.
elaine cohen, CSR consultant, Sustainabilty Reporter, HR Professional, Ice Cream Addict. Author of CSR for HR: A necessary partnership for advancing responsible business practices Contact me via www.twitter.com/elainecohen on Twitter or via my business website www.b-yond.biz/en (BeyondBusiness, CSR consulting and Sustainability Reporting firm)