Sep 30, 2021 | by Tina Woods

Putting health and wellbeing into the ‘S’ of ESG

Our Business Leaders’ Council brings together stakeholders from the business sector who are demonstrating an ongoing commitment to wellbeing within their own workplace, in their supply chains, with their consumers and in society more broadly. The Council’s regular webinars look at all aspects of wellbeing at work, bringing in expert speakers from industry. If you would like to be part of the innovative Business Leaders Council contact us.

Our most recent webinar looked at Environmental, Social and Governance criteria, and in particular the Social element, which considers how a company manages its relationship with employees, suppliers, customers and local communities. 

What you can do now

Scope 1

Measure 

Act & Learn 

Scope 2

Businesses can also measure their Corporate Social Responsibility by looking at the wellbeing impact of their products, services and the impact on their communities using HMT Valuation of Wellbeing Guidance.

In this blog Tina Woods talks about how to identify workplace tools that prioritise a healthy mindset and improve wellbeing, and expands on the importance of putting health and wellbeing at the heart of the ESG criteria.


Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) investing is now mainstream and is largely focused on the ‘Environmental’, but the Covid-19 pandemic has shown how health and wellbeing inequalities can undermine resilience within populations and impede economic development. 

In the session ‘Business and Levelling Up Health’ at the recent Healthspan conference, two of the What Works Centre for Wellbeing’s Business Leaders’ Council speakers made the case for why ‘health and wellbeing’ needs to be a bigger part of Environmental, Social and Governance criteria frameworks:

  • John Godfrey, Chair of Business for Health and Corporate Affairs Director at Legal & General:  ‘Quite apart from any moral and ethical concerns businesses have, there is a clear self interest in having a fitter and healthier workforce. We are developing the metrics, because what gets measured gets done and we want to help businesses on this journey’.
  • Jess Attard, Head of Food and Health at ShareAction: ‘We want to see companies shifting to healthier products and services that are better for the population, better for the company and better for investors. We think that will really have tangible positive impacts on population health.’

Businesses have a direct influence on the health of the nation through their role as employer, the products and services they sell and their external influence on the environments and communities in which they operate. They also have a large role in influencing the job quality of their employees. We know that a supportive and effective workplace is key for employee wellbeing – creating a quality job includes looking at:

  • Job autonomy
  • Pay
  • Job security
  • Job satisfaction

Covid-19 has shown that all these aspects require attention if we are to see an improvement in our resilience and wellbeing as a society.  But work needs to be done to harness the data in order to measure company performance in this area and to have this embedded into Environmental, Social and Governance criteria frameworks in the way that we have seen happen with climate.

The good news is that progress is being made. Health data and metrics are improving rapidly and the positive and negative health impacts of companies can, along with climate impacts, be assessed to encompass direct impact: 

  • The What Works Centre for Wellbeing has developed robust measures on wellbeing and its drivers in the workplace, along with benchmarks that several organisations have already adopted. 
  • They have also developed a snapshot survey that employers can use to help meet the Thriving at Work Voluntary Reporting Standards on Mental Health and Wellbeing at Work. 
  • One of the key recommendations of the Levelling Up Health report from the All Party Parliamentary Group for Longevity is that ‘business assumes a far greater role in contributing to the nation’s health’, including the development of a Business Index to measure this. 
  • The APG for Longevity is also developing an Open Life Data Framework that will show how health and non-health data can be combined securely to improve health for individuals and populations.  
  • Business for Health is designing a ‘Business Framework for Health’ to measure businesses’ contribution to health and promote the role of business in creating a healthier nation. Its report and action plan, Business for Health Framework: Supporting businesses and employers in their role to enhance and level up the health of the nation, will be launched at the CBI on 18 October (tickets available here). It will identify and develop better metrics around health in the workplace, and the health impact of what business provides, both in terms of their direct and indirect influences on people, communities, and wider society.  We are interested in your views on some of the ideas and questions raised so far on the Business Index Framework – please take part in the consultation process here.  

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