UPM wants to make sure that all its employees, regardless of their country or location, work in an environment that is as healthy as possible. In line with this goal, UPM is the first forest industry company to commit to the WASH programme of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). WASH is an acronym standing for ‘Water, Sanitation and Hygiene’.
WASH aims to guarantee a healthy workplace for all, as well as prevent the spread of contagious diseases. It requires companies to monitor the drinking water, sanitation and hygiene conditions within their organisation and to make any required improvements.
In launching this programme, the WBCSD addresses a major problem. More than 1.8 billion people worldwide do not have access to clean, safe drinking water. Approximately 4.1 billion people lack sufficient sanitation or, in short, access to a proper lavatory.
Getting companies to sign up for the programme can make a real difference. The input of thirty companies is estimated to bring direct benefits to over two million people. As the number of participating companies increases, the direct and indirect benefits multiply.
UPM joined the WASH programme this autumn. The company sent out a survey to all its production facilities enquiring about local drinking water, sanitation and hygiene conditions. A total of 54 production facilities from around the world responded to the survey and evaluated whether conditions at their sites could be improved.
There is always room for improvement, even at highly advanced pulp and paper mills that operate in compliance with strict regulations. UPM’s occupational healthcare physician Tero Kemppainen offers the example of a Finnish lumberjack who works in the middle of nowhere without a proper lavatory. As a hygiene precaution he always keeps wet wipes or clean water with him in order to wash his hands. “Hand hygiene is extremely important for your health,” Kemppainen says.
The WASH programme was launched in autumn 2013 in Geneva, Switzerland. UPM launched its own project this year.
After improvement needs have been identified, UPM will take action. Good hygiene is after all a win-win: employees benefit from good health, and employers achieve savings in the form of reduced sickness absenteeism.