Business for Health calls for “Health” to be brought into ESG strategies

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Business for Health launched its ‘Year On’ report at The Watercooler Event on 25 April, outlining the next phase of the Business Framework of Health, first set out in Business Framework for Health: Supporting businesses and employers in their role to enhance and level up health of the nation 
launched with the support of Chris Whitty CMO in October 2021.

The report calls for “Health” to be brought into ESG strategies in line with Business for Health’s 2023-2025 plan to tackle long-term ill health and economic inactivity.

Dame Carol Black’s keynote put a spotlight on businesses all needing to be in the business of health and how that will drive systemic change. She then joined the panel chaired by Tina Woods, CEO of Business for Health involving: John Godfrey, Levelling Up Director, Legal & General, Chair,
Business for Health; Sandra Dyball, Director, Health, Wellbeing and Benefits, Centrica; Pamela Gellatly, CEO, healthcare rm; and Lord Bethell, Former Health Minister.

Health as an asset to invest in

Dame Carol emphasised that health needs to be seen as an asset to invest in, with workplace interventions tested and measured better to show what is valuable. There are still many unproven interventions that may not be doing any good or in fact may be causing more harm. Mental health needs
special attention with the health service in a fragile state. We need to get the basics right and look to some of the good results coming from devolving health to the regions, such as in Greater Manchester.

Lord Bethell agreed that the health of the nation is not where it needs to be and that the NHS is a sickness service at the moment. This needs to change and employers have a big role to create a culture of health in the workplace where employees can take responsibility to curate their own
health; the role of government is to create conditions and nurture environments in which people can more easily make the right decisions.

Pamela Gellatly said a challenge for employers is that they don’t know whether the benefits they offer improve outcomes – there is a real data gap. Current clinical models assess symptoms and not underlying causation. We need to move to a broader biopsychosocial model to understand the links
between behaviours and ill health. Tackling systemic issues requires root cause analysis with care pathways addressing behavioural changes to improve health. 

Sandra Dyball explained that their approach at Centrica is to motivate their employees to engage with their health; peer-to-peer stories are the highest form of evidence to hear it, see it, know it works and to take action.

Risk and reward

John Godfrey added that we need to take inspiration and guidance from what has worked in the climate agenda to bring ‘Health’ into ESG – looking at the economic consequences of poor health and health inequalities. In climate, transparency and disclosure drives action. Government can set a baseline for regulation, enforce standards of reporting and disclosure and properly measure health. Larger companies will pick up smaller companies in their supply chain. We need to move faster in health, as it has taken 25 years to get to this stage with climate.

There is clear incentive for businesses as employers to engage with this: less absence, better productivity, less gaps to fill, leading to more effective organisations. 

For businesses as goods and services providers the incentive is more around risk and rewards. In the food domain, for example, investors want to know which companies will be hardest hit in changes from taxation (sugar, alcohol) and consumer litigation. 

In the places they operate, businesses will benefit from having healthier workforces and healthier consumers that buy their consumer products.
There was a clear consensus that moving towards an insurance-based healthcare model is not the solution.

Elizabeth Bachrad, Head of Programme Strategy at Business for Health and one of the report’s authors, agrees that three fundamentals need to be in place to keep employees healthy: having powerful leadership, board engagement and empowered managers to create a culture of health.

You can read Business for Health’s Year On report and route map for 2023-2025 here and get in touch with [email protected] if you’d like to get involved.

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