What Health Can Learn from the Environment: Reporting for Good

By Gillian Christie

In June 2013, President Barack Obama launched a Climate Action Plan to minimize carbon pollution, prepare the United States for the impacts of climate change, and lead international initiatives that target global climate change. On July 29, 2014, the White House announced expansions of its Climate Data Initiative, a deliverable of the Climate Action Plan. It aims to stimulate innovation and entrepreneurship using the Federal Government’s open data resources. The expansion proposed activities that support a global food system resilient to climate change, with commitments from the American government and private-sector organizations, including PepsiCo, Nestle, Coca-Cola, and Wal-Mart.

Companies committed to the Climate Data Initiative indicate that CEOs are increasingly viewing environmental improvements as material to long-term corporate profitability. As C-suite executives value the environment, investors subsequently consider a company’s environmental footprint when making investment decisions. The Dow Jones Sustainability Index, the Global Reporting Initiative the United Nations Global Compact, and the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board are leading examples of initiatives that incentivize and support environmental progress alongside corporate profitability. While environmental action has historically been viewed within the domain of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and philanthropy, it is increasingly moving toward being seeing as good business practice.

So what can health learn from the environment?

Action to improve health at the individual and population level requires health advocates learning from environmental efforts, including those of the Climate Data Initiative. As a start, the Vitality Institute is working to encourage companies to report on workforce health metrics alongside financial performance. Our vision is that better reporting on the health status of employees within integrated corporate reports will lead to both greater investor support of the value of employee health as an asset and actions by companies to do better at enhancing employee health especially through effective workplace prevention and health promotion programs.


How does your company work to improve the environment? What else can we learn from the environment that can be applied to health? Tweet at the Vitality Institute @VitalityInst

Image credit goes to the US Green Chamber

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