Key Takeaways

- Safety professionals are changes agents, making them uniquely qualified to lead their organizations to carbon neutrality and sustainability.

- Safety professionals have the necessary skills to be climate action change agents because they are risk management experts, excellent communicators, educators, consensus builders and unifiers—all attributes needed to catalyze organizational climate action. They also tend to be altruistic, driven by a desire to protect people, which makes them ideal climate stewards.

- Communicating climate change and mitigation through a safety and health framework is the best motivating framework in which to take mitigating actions.

- Safety professionals can help their organizations become carbon-neutral by adopting a continual improvement approach with adapted hierarchy of controls that can be integrated into their business management systems.


A change agent is a person who suggests performance improvements and inspires the organization to become engaged and then to transform (DeRose, 2004). Thus, a change agent serves as a catalyst to bring about some sort of organizational change, which could be large or small and could have great or limited impact depending on the context. A more reflective view of change agents is that they assess the present, are controllably dissatisfied with it, contemplate a future that should be, and take action to achieve the changes necessary to achieve the desired future (Manuele, 2015). In short, a change agent advances organizational performance. Does this sound like a characteristic, critical role that safety professionals typically have in organizations? The authors think so.

Safety Professionals as Change Agents

It has been said that a safety professional’s most effective role is that of leader and change agent (DeRose, 2004). Manuele (2015) pointedly states, “Think about it. Are not most safety professionals primarily providers of advice to achieve change?” Kello (2005) adds, “Modern safety professionals are agents for positive change in their organizations. They are trying to build deep working relationships that allow them to effect constructive change through influence, even when the client system may not want to change.”

Safety professionals adopt various roles as change agents that affect work systems and diverse work areas such as implementing or promoting mental health, psychological safety and employee assistance programs in organizations. From a system perspective, they could act as organizational, safety culture, business management system or behavioral change agents as determined through a literature review (Table 1).

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