By: Derek Yach | Chief Health Officer at Vitality | June 23rd, 2016

This post was coauthored by Derek Yach & Gillian Christie, Vitality. 

Ten years following the Earth Summit (1992) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the World Summit on Sustainable Development (2002) in Johannesburg, South Africa was an opportunity to elevate health on the environmental and development agendas. The newly launched Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) build upon outputs from Brazil and South Africa to position humans at the center of sustainable development by valuing health as an input and an outcome of sustainable societies.

The United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) is uniquely positioned to translate the SDGs into action. Partnerships with 8,600 businesses and 4,000 non-businesses from 160 countries advance responsible and sustainable business practices through ten principles, focused on human rights, labor standards, the environment, and anti-corruption. It’s recently appointed Executive Director, Lise Kingo, brings extensive business expertise, along with a deep desire to improve the health of global populations.

The UNGC’s Global Opportunities Report 2016 indicates that SDG8 (decent work & economic growth) and SDG3 (good health & well-being) rank highest in a global survey of 5,500 private and public sector leaders on the impact of the SDGs on sustainable development and new business opportunities. 

Figure: Global survey of impact of SDGs on sustainable development and new business opportunities

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Source: Global Opportunities Report 2016; bars indicate percentage of respondents who selected the SDG

Despite SDG3’s global survey ranking, health has received minimal attention by the UNGC. Today, this changed at an event hosted at the United Nations by Vitality, the UNGC’s newest member through its South African parent company, Discovery. During the UNGC Leaders Summit 2016 that is taking place on June 22-23, 2016 in New York City, business, nonprofit, and academic leaders outlined the case for integrating health into the UNGC.

Derek Yach, chief health officer at Vitality, built upon his extensive expertise from the World Health Organization, business, and academia to emphasize the power of partnerships in tackling today’s most intractable health challenges. Yach noted the breadth of interest that emerged following the release of a Vitality report at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in January 2016.

Brenda Colatrella, executive director of corporate responsibility at Merck and chair of the workshop planning committee on “Exploring Shared Value in Global Health and Safety” hosted by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in December 2015, demonstrated how Mark Kramer and Michael Porter’s methodology on creating shared value is being actively applied in health by diverse businesses. “The private sector is gathering behind shared value as a way to deliver health and well-being through the workplace, marketplace, and community,” said Colatrella.

Erika Karp, founder and CEO of Cornerstone Capital, examined the nexus of corporate performance and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues. Karp highlighted progress in targeting health through business, stating: “The finance community, and particularly investors and asset managers, is beginning to realize that health is fundamentally material to a company’s long-term value. A culture of health extends to the capital markets as well, through honesty, transparency and inclusiveness.”

Jason Saul, founder and CEO of Mission Measurement, introduced the industry’s first consumer-driven ESG-H index, which quantifies the relationship of corporate health and sustainability performance to consumer demand. “Company valuations are derived from measures developed by the companies themselves, but consumers of all ages – ranging from millennials to older adults – have a role to play in determining a company’s real value,” said Saul.

Kate Rebernak, founder and CEO of Framework and advisor to the US Network of the UNGC, focused her remarks on business risks and opportunities in advancing health and well-being, stating: “Health is a key factor in talent management, which is consistently flagged as a material issue across all sectors. So it’s important for companies to consider how employees’ health can impact their business and the markets – for better or worse.”  

Ray Fabius, co-founder and vice-chairman at HealthNEXT, provided empirical evidence demonstrating links between long-term corporate stock performance and investments in a culture of health. Fabius noted: “Investing in the health, safety, and well-being of workforces is not just a way for becoming an employer of choice – it is a way to create a competitive advantage in the marketplace.”

Lastly, Susanne Stormer, vice president of corporate sustainability at Novo Nordisk, reflected on the company’s longstanding leadership in building a business model that values a healthy workforce, creates healthy products and services that are affordable for all populations, and invests in community partnerships complementary to the work of governments. Stormer indicated: “Novo Nordisk’s pioneering of triple bottom line reporting extends beyond the bottom line to focus on reaching and activating citizens around the world.”

Among the major announcements at the Vitality event was that the UNGC, Novo Nordisk, and Discovery will lead a multi-stakeholder process, inclusive of UNGC’s members, to drive progress. It will entail working with global businesses to identify future opportunities in global health, which may include better integration of health and well-being into reporting platforms to advance the SDGs.

Infographic: Creating Shared Value: Health Metrics

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About Discovery

Discovery Limited is a South African-founded financial services organization that operates in the healthcare, life assurance, short-term insurance, savings and investment products and wellness markets. Founded in 1992, Discovery was guided by a clear core purpose – to make people healthier and to enhance and protect their lives. Underpinning this core purpose is the belief that through innovation, Discovery can be a powerful market disruptor. Vitality, Discovery’s well-being program, is the world’s largest scientific, incentive-based solution for individuals and corporates. The company is headquartered in Johannesburg, South Africa and operates in a variety of markets worldwide. Follow us on Twitter.  




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