Apr 07, 2021 | Gillian McKee

Health is everything, for everyone, everywhere.

Just stop for a minute and think about the concept of health. What does it really mean? It’s undoubtedly a positive concept, and something we all aspire to, whether as individuals, organisations, communities or countries. There are many definitions, the most prevalent of which is the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) “Health is a state of physical, mental and social well-being in which disease and infirmity are absent”. Naturally, this relates to human health, but the same principles apply to a company. When financial health, plus societal and environmental well-being are all present, that is a healthy state to be in. It is also the definition of a sustainable business.

Back to human health for a minute. Of course, illness can affect a person unexpectedly, but in many cases, it can be predicted and avoided just by monitoring how one is feeling and taking steps to stay fit and well. Eating a balanced, nutritious diet, getting a little bit of exercise and fresh air each day, sticking to rigid hand hygiene, and having regular checkups to make sure there’s nothing lurking, hidden and waiting to give us a nasty surprise somewhere down the line all help in that regard. Exactly the same analogy for predicting and avoiding ‘illness’ applies to a company, but what can make it more difficult is not having the systems in place to assess organisational health and identify potential problems. Whereas a thermometer and a few blood tests can help detect many potential illnesses in a human, a more systematic approach to measuring and monitoring is needed within a company.

When you really think about health and its importance, it quickly becomes clear that good health is the ultimate consideration and desired state for all forms of life – human, organisational, biological, and planetary. It truly is everything, for everyone, everywhere, which is why the World Health Organisation’s choice of theme for the 2021 World Health Day is so fitting. It’s why Good Health and Well-being is one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and why a global pandemic is such a devastating threat to the economic, social and environmental systems of countries large and small, rich and poor around the world.

Within your own organisation, no doubt you invest in supporting the health and well-being of your people, knowing that without them present, fit and well in work, it’s hard for the business to function at its best. And of course, you should do that – for the benefit of your business and because it’s the right thing to do. Presumably, you don’t only invest in their physical well-being, but support them with maintaining good mental health too – something that has come increasingly to the fore this past year as people have struggled with the impacts of lockdowns and the loneliness and isolation or increased stress at home it has brought to many.

As a responsible employer, talking to you about the importance of your employees’ health is simply ‘preaching to the converted’ and that’s a positive sign. However, have you invested as much in monitoring your company health? I suspect you pay regular attention to financial health, but that is only one indicator and generally a short-term one. Do you know for example whether your practices are sustainable in the longer term? Do you recognise the intrinsic link between sustainability and health? Because, let’s face it, if the pandemic should have taught us anything, it should be that health and sustainability are completely interdependent; one cannot exist without consideration of the other.

When it comes to your company, do you have the measurement systems in place to identify possible signs of danger further down the line? Can you tell whether your procurement of goods and services is likely to run into trouble at some point because the resources you rely on are finite, or is it clear that your HR practices aren’t supporting a pipeline of diverse talent into and through the business? Do you have a system in place that can give you effectively, a ‘full medical’ picture of your company’s health to help you identify actions to stay strong without causing undue strain and damage on the natural resources you need?

If so, brilliant – perhaps you’re already a customer of SustainIQ. If not, take some time to reflect on the importance of health on this World Health Day – not just your own or your people’s, but your company’s health – and think about measuring and monitoring and the benefits that could bring. It’s an intelligent investment in a sustainable, healthy future and one you can’t afford to ignore as we seek to build a fairer, healthier world.

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