Insights From the Think Tank Session at MAD World Summit 2021

Think Tank 2021_2 (1)

The Think Tank has become one of the most valued distinguishing features of the MAD World Summit. It offers an opportunity for senior business professionals to privately share their thoughts in a closed-door setting on a pressing topic.

This year’s Think Tank session looked at the idea of designing a Business for Health Index that measures business’ contribution to health, supported by a coalition of businesses committed to helping improve the health of the nation.

It was hosted by Tina Woods, Co-founder & CEO of Business for Health (B4H) and Co-founder & Director of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Longevity, alongside John Godfrey, who as well as being Chair of B4H is also Director of Corporate Affairs with Legal and General.

Also contributing to the presentation were CBI’s Chief UK Policy Director, Matthew Fell and Luke Prankard, Director of Alliances, EMEA LifeWorks (B4H Associate Member and also the sponsor of this year’s Think Tank).

A Business Coalition for a Healthier Nation

Forming a ‘Business Coalition for a Healthier Nation’ was one of the key recommendations of The Health of the Nation Strategy published in February 2020 by the APPG for Longevity (click here to view the strategy). The Strategy’s aim was how to meet the government goal of adding 5 years healthy life expectancy while minimising health inequalities, and it involved over 50 groups and 100 experts.  Business for Health (B4H) was officially launched in November 2020 and since then there has been a growing appetite from the business community, especially since the health pandemic, to do more to improve and level up health.

B4H set the wheels in motion to start exploring ways to achieve increasing the nation’s healthy life expectancy through the support of the businesses,  recognising that health is the foundation for wellbeing, productivity and economic growth. B4H has been working with the business community, and growing its membership including AXA Health, Phoenix Group, Legal & General, Johnson & Johnson, The Centre for Aging Better, The Health Foundation, UK Research & Innovation and the Confederation of Business and Industry (CBI).

And in October 2021, B4H launched its report, The Business Framework for Health, supported by Chris Whitty CMO  (click here) which looked at how to do more to get the business community, in a cross-sector joint effort including the public, private and third sectors, to invest in the health of the nation.  It is looking at three core areas, taking a systems change approach,  with the ultimate aim of bringing ‘Health’ into Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) mandates.

  1. Direct impact: business influence on workforce health
  2. Secondary impact: business influence on health via products and services sold
  3. The external influence of business on the communities in which they operate and the wider environment/society

The How

Recognising the challenges at hand to create a meaningful and impactful Business Index that would help set standards for businesses to follow, Tina Woods and John Godfrey identified some of what’s worked previously with the business community to consider:

  • Incentivising investments, such as encouraging pension funds and institutional firms to invest for the long term.
  • Looking at the impact achieved by the Stevenson/Farmer Thriving at Work report that government commissioned in 2017, (which looked at the state of the nation’s mental health and identified core standards for businesses to follow) and what we can learn from this
  • Looking at parallels with what’s happened with the climate change movement and ways business is now helping drive this, and applying what has worked to the health scenario

Some challenges set forth by the audience on ‘how’ to achieve success with the Index included:

  • How do we create a benchmarking tool with simple metrics which speaks to the change Business for Health wants to see?
  • How do we get this on the Board agenda of companies?
  • How do we engage employees in the behaviour change journey to engage more proactively with their health (and see higher returns for employers investing in corporate health and wellness programmes)
  • What data will move the dial and how do we best capture that data from businesses?
  • How much data do companies currently share and how can we get them to share more?
  • How can we look at the health impact of all these initiatives to piggyback on the agenda of the Net Zero Plan?
  • How do we get seed change to take hold, recognising different considerations of younger generations, how to support an ageing workforce, and trends in automation, hybrid working and the gig economy?

Outcomes to Help Move the Dial

The following actions were agreed to help focus B4H’s work in creating the Business for Health Index going ahead:

  1. Reaching a ‘Time is Now’ prevention mindset which is shared by employers and all the nation’s citizens, which also looks at what is already working and learning from that
  2. Incentivising businesses with tax reliefs connected to improvements in health outcomes of their staff – which can also be an argument for the Treasury in terms of longer-term motivation
  3. Influencing culture, and creating a ‘culture for health’, so that more people are encouraged to adopt healthier behaviours and personal practices, and doing their bit to reduce demand on the NHS and care ‘illness’ service
  4. CEO’s and middle managers must be authentically engaged and on board for the changes within companies to take hold

Luke Prankard said of the Think Tank:

“LifeWorks is delighted to partner with B4H and echo the comments from the Think Tank that businesses have a critical role to play in improving the health of their workforce, which benefits their organisation just as much as it boosts the wellbeing of their people.

At LifeWorks, we are seeing business shift their focus into the putting the H of Health into ESG (ESHG) and asking us for tools that help them evidence and measure the health and impact the organisation has on its workforce.

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Investors want a clear plan that looks at all aspects of ESG and are particularly turning their focus onto health. They want organisations to have a programme in place, that looks at what they do to support employees at present, how well they are managing the wellbeing of staff and whether there is a roadmap to improve and develop this in future.”

While it’s clear that business can play a major role in moving the dial, it’s also essential to remember the role personal responsibility plays when it comes to the citizens of the nation, and the employees of the coalition of businesses invested in these efforts. In a closing comment, Tracy Garrad, CEO, AXA Health added, “There’s got to be more of a focus on engagement and getting people to understand for themselves the responsibility they have for their health.”

About the author

Heather Kelly is the founder of Aura Wellbeing, a global consultancy providing workplace mental health and wellbeing strategy, training and coaching services to employers. She led the development and operation of the Workplace Wellbeing Index during her time working for the UK’s largest mental health charity, Mind and was launch Online Editor for Make a Difference News and Director of Content for Make a Difference Summit US (2020). In her earlier career she worked as a senior manager in the insurance industry and a photographer. Heather’s driven to inspire more empathy and awareness in workplaces toward normalising mental health, which she speaks about in her recent TEDx talk, Empathy is the Super Power You Need.


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