Building healthy companies: Employee well-being and COP27

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by Aaroshi Rathor
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With COP27 just around the corner, we are presented with another opportunity to address how, possibly, to put a halt to the accelerating and worrying climate change affecting the world. According to a UNEP report, climate pledges taken by countries in COP26 to curb greenhouse gas emissions have shown inadequate progress and they have put the world on track for a temperature rise of between 2.4 to 2.6°C by the end of this century. The report also stated that it is highly unlikely to limit the temperature to 1.5°C, and to ensure to reach the said temperature, global annual emissions must be reduced or cut down by at least 45% under current policies by 2030. As a result of drastic change in the overall world temperatures, global health is being significantly affected, with numbers of respiratory problems and heat-related illness on the rise. To better ensure the health of employees, organisations are slowly making efforts to adapt to climate change, which is directly affecting their business performance. So, how are the COP27 talks relevant to employee well-being within private organisations? What role do private organisations and businesses play in providing health measures for their employees? 

Brand visibility and positive image 

The pandemic has opened the eyes of the world when it comes to making health a priority instead of an option. Companies can be active participants in reducing the effect of climate change by giving employees the option of working from home or opting for the hybrid model. According to a survey by FlexJobs conducted between March and April in 2021, 58% of workers said they would “absolutely” look for a new position if they cannot continue remote work in their existing role. The report also stated that 65% of workers would want to remain full-time remote workers post-pandemic and 33% workers prefer a hybrid working arrangement. A survey by Gartner Inc CFO revealed that 74% of companies are planning to shift to permanent remote work even after the pandemic ends as it increases their overall business profit and decreases operating costs such as office furniture, lease expenses, physical office supplies like laptops, computers, repair and upkeep work.    

According to a study by Stanford, 16,000 workers were observed over a period of nine months who were working from home, it was found that by working from home, their productivity increased by 13%. Along with this, it was found that workers’ job satisfaction had been improved and attrition rates were cut down by up to 50%. As noted in the relation between COP27 and ESG, companies are catering to develop a positive brand image in front of potential investors, stakeholders, and employers, and one of the key aspects to attract youth employees is to make your company environmentally friendly. This results in the retention of the youth workforce along with catering to a sustainable long-term future. 

Catering to ESG goals 

Companies everywhere are making significant changes to their ESG strategies for the long-term. For example, Meta Platforms is looking to change the size of its office space as most of its employees are adopting work from home. Job seekers will automatically be keen to join the company offering remote work as it provides them with the option of flexible working along with  the opportunity to define their own productivity themselves. This could benefit Meta in the long run as there will be a significant increase in employee performance, retention and engagement along with reducing operating costs and being an active participant in cutting down on greenhouse gas emissions along with adhering to the climate change policies in a practical manner.  

COP27 aims for private businesses to implement ‘Environmental, Social Governance’ to create an environmentally sustainable business model for the future,  along with catering to the well-being of its employees. The global impact of ESG is wide and companies will be implementing the ‘Social and Governance’ aspects of inclusivity and diversity for employees in the workplace and reaching for sustainability goals to survive in the future. 

Adhering to new international treaties 

According to a UNEP report, a global transformation to a low-emission economy would require investments of at least USD 4- 6 trillion a year. COP27 is the key mechanism for governments, and private and public sectors to take immediate action and implementation in their policies towards climate change. One of the major ESG goals that will be catered to if climate policy progresses is that companies will have to follow the guidance with regard to international policies in order to function. Talking about the importance of COP27, The UN Secretary General António Gutteres said, “There has been a tendency to put climate change on the back burner. If we are not able to reverse the present trend, we will be doomed.” So, for business it is crucial, and not just for employee health - but to stay relevant in the quickly evolving landscape of business sustainability - to find ways to relate overarching climate treaty policy to everyday business functions.

Visualising how a changing climate affects our individual health can play a significant role in putting pressure on public and private companies to become more climate conscious. If some organisations are willing to “put climate change on the back burner”, are they equally willing to treat their workforce with similar negligence? Where there is often confusion about how the grander political changes can exert an effect on a given business, it is perhaps more pragmatic to work within the ‘S’ of ESG and see where gains can be made in thinking first about people, then seeing how that approach yields beneficial effects elsewhere.

Takeaway

Each and every moment is becoming even more precious when it comes to taking action in combating and reversing climate disaster. While some companies are of the opinion that workers are performing less while working from home, other companies are shifting to a permanent work from home model of working. It all comes down to striking a balance between the professional and personal well-being of an employee. In order to reach this, employee well-being should be at the forefront of private and public sector companies. They need to prioritise their workers' health in order to drive profitability for their business along with adapting to a futuristic sustainable environment, as more flexible negotiated working conditions will lead to higher productivity. 

According to a leading employee productivity monitoring company Prodoscore, remote workers were 47%  more productive as compared to regular office-goers. We hope companies will take important measures to ensure a better physical and mental health of employees and ‘implement’ ratified policy changes taking place at the COP27summit to work in a clean and sustainable environment in the future. 

For more updates on COP27, bookmark KnowESG.

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