Stakeholders increasingly expect companies to play a greater role in improving population health by promoting a wellness and prevention agenda not just with their employees, but also with the broader population that corporate actions impact.
CSR has been an important catalyst for other multifaceted, complex challenges (e.g., climate change). Its ability to view issues and solutions as interconnected and part of a larger system could help CSR play a major role in facilitating the private sector’s approach to improving population health.
Companies must develop health and wellness key performance indicators and goals that demonstrate results and drive internal engagement and leadership commitment on this issue, and they must establish critical partnerships and collaborations with trusted organizations.
“Most companies are invested in health and wellness, and oftentimes we just need to create a greater understanding of the role that companies are already playing in this space. You would be hard-pressed to find a multinational company that isn’t doing something. But that said, we can push to develop greater strategic alignment between what companies are, for instance, doing in their communities with what they do as their core business.” —Rain Henderson, William J. Clinton Foundation
“We are an incredibly data-driven company, and we have to demonstrate results for everything we do. For example, we have set global goals around responsible drinking and have put them out into the marketplace. Developing key performance indicators to track progress on health and wellness is very important.” —Carol Clark, Anheuser-Busch InBev
“Our research has indicated that many companies are recognizing that their responsibility extends beyond their core employee base. Stakeholders are asking for the private sector to step up, and companies are increasingly recognizing this responsibility.” —Mark Little, BSR
Little kicked off the session by describing two key lessons from a BSR research report on the role of business in population health. Little explained that stakeholders increasingly expect companies to play a greater role in improving population health by promoting a wellness and prevention agenda not just with their employees, but also with the broader population that corporate actions impact. He said that CSR can play a major role in facilitating a company’s approach to health and wellness given its experience with other multifaceted, complex challenges, such as climate change, as well as its ability to view issues and solutions as interconnected and part of a larger system.
Clark agreed that companies have the opportunity to view health and wellness as a broader stakeholder and value chain issue. Her company, Anheuser-Busch InBev, which is a leading global beverage and brewing company, focuses as much on strengthening the health and wellness of its customers and the general public as it does that of its employees, for instance, around the issue of responsible drinking. Clark asserted the importance of developing health and wellness key performance indicators (KPIs) and goals for her data-driven company that not only demonstrate progress and results to its key stakeholders, but also drive internal engagement and leadership commitment on this issue.
Next, Henderson communicated that companies need to take an integrated approach to addressing the systemic challenge of population health. She discussed that while companies have made tremendous efforts to improve the health and wellness of employees and, to some extent, community health through localized investments, they generally have more opportunities to understand and demonstrate how their core business impacts health and wellness. Companies should use an evidence-based approach to make the business case for health and wellness across the value chain, as well as identify new technologies and innovations that would enhance the implementation of existing health and wellness initiatives.
Henderson also explained that there are many challenges across industries. For one, there is no clear baseline of what companies are doing across the value chain on health and wellness. Different companies are at various stages of implementation, and there is wide disparity in terms of performance on this issue. There is also less data that support the business case for strengthening health and wellness efforts across the value chain, relative to the data available that support the business case for strengthening employee health and wellness.
Taking a question from the audience about internal challenges, Clark answered that there are still opportunities to engage more functions across the company on health and wellness and create better alignment. For example, Clark highlighted the opportunity to bring the safety and marketing teams together to develop shared objectives and coordinate activities on health and wellness.
During the Q&A session, Henderson cautioned that, despite quagmire in government, which has brought a new focus to the role of business in population health, all parties still have a role to play. Companies will increasingly need to build strong partnerships with trusted organizations. Clark further noted that as various actors within society strengthen and expand their approaches to health and wellness, private individuals must continue to exhibit and, in many cases, strengthen their personal responsibility for their health.
Given the systemic nature of the challenge of population health, Little closed the session by suggesting the need for greater partnerships and collaborations across sectors and companies. As a call to action, Little introduced BSR’s Business Coalition on Population Health. This new coalition represents an opportunity for companies to begin the conversation about and drive toward sharing best practices and precompetitive tools and resources to improve population health.