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Being a good employer is good ESG

By Andrew Adie
28 February 2020
Green & Good (ESG and Impact)

By Andrew Adie

This week the Health Foundation and Professor Sir Michael Marmot delivered an update to his 2010 report into social inequalities and life expectancy in the UK.

The headline findings were pretty depressing: increases in life expectancy in the UK have stalled with some stark health inequalities highlighted between those living in the most deprived and most affluent areas of the UK. Your post code and socio-economic situation can add or take ten years off your life.

While the report gives areas of concern for policy makers and health chiefs it also flags a more mundane reality: work is good for our health (as long as it pays well and doesn’t risk life and limb).

The report details examples of how both paid employment and volunteering is helping to break chains of poverty and improve mental and physical health.

No surprise there, you might think, but it does highlight an interesting point for the corporate world as it strives to define its purpose in a world of change.

Corporate narrative and action has been heavily influenced by the environmental debate. Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG) is an obsession but debate around this is also dominated by decarbonisation and sustainability.

Clearly getting this right is critical, but focus on the E shouldn’t blind us to the importance of other areas of ESG.

Focusing on ways to bring more people into the workforce, and boost returnship, inclusion, training, diversity and the number of good, well rewarded jobs is a key role that corporates can play in a successful society.

The point was reinforced by an article on the BBC charting the impact that card payments company, Gravity Payments, achieved when it raised minimum wage levels for all its staff.

While this is unlikely to be a model that is widely adopted (for now), it further illustrates that good jobs and an effective employer brand can reap huge benefits for staff and companies.

PwC’s Workforce of the Future survey is often quoted for its headline stat that 88% of millennials want to work for a company with values that reflect their own (and it reminds us that 75% of the global workforce will be millennials by 2025).

The Marmot report, the informal learnings from Gravity Payments, and the stats from PwC all point to the importance of purpose and a strong employer brand that is rooted in fairness in driving better lives for the workforce.

Corporates also need to mind the lessons on the other side: Persimmon’s executive pay packages continued to make headlines this week, despite CEO Jeff Fairburn leaving almost 18 months ago.

While the ESG narrative is rightly being dictated by the need to strive for net zero, we cannot lose sight of the other elements of the ‘Purpose’ mission.

Photo by Mia Baker on Unsplash