2018 GRESB Health & Well-being Module – Insights and Implications

The 2018 GRESB Health and Well-being (H+W) module has evolved from its original version to provide even more sustainability benchmarking value.

For the first time, participants were asked questions about:

  • The seniority of the well-being decision maker and the specific health qualifications of the team that supports the decision maker; and
  • Further detail regarding the purpose of health and well-being policies – whether they are directed at reducing risk or adding value.

As an increasing number of companies adopt health promotion interventions, we think that both of these pieces of information will help organizations create healthier, more sustainable businesses.

Seniority and Qualifications of Well-being Decision Makers

Companies that effectively promote employee health and well-being often have a robust governance structure with accountability to senior leadership.1 It’s good to see, therefore, that more and more GRESB participants are positioning the senior management team as organizational health leaders (32% in 2018 vs 25% in 2016). This growth shows top-down commitment to this issue.2
As the momentum for employee health and well-being builds, we would expect to see these leaders also seek out more health-related qualifications – similar to how the LEED AP credential grew as commitment to sustainable building grew. GRESB H+W module participants cited that the most popular health and well-being professional certifications held by the team supporting the H+W leader were medical, mental health, and WELL AP professional certifications.2

Health, Safety and Well-being: the Risk – Value Spectrum

The GRESB Health and Well-being module has always asked questions about organizational policy such as, “Does the organization have a policy for the promotion of health & well-being for employees?” Now, new response options allow participants to identify if the policy is aiming at managing risk or promoting value.
As described by Worden and Trowbridge, “efforts focused on building safety are driven by a desire to reduce the risk of harm whereas health promotion is focused on creating a superior environment that improves human experience and supports healthy behaviors.”3 Results from the 2018 module indicate that participants’ organizational policies are targeted more at health promotion rather than risk mitigation.2 Of course, standards for safety often increase over time, and those policies that are now considered a value-add may one day be seen as risk-mitigating.
For example, organizations today might have policies targeted at enhancing their office indoor air quality as a means to enhance employee productivity (to add value).4 Proliferation of real-time air quality monitoring sensors, however, might eventually make the purpose of this intervention shift to risk mitigation.
GRESB risk and value insights indicate to us a larger need for a more comprehensive approach to defining the business case for health and well-being. Risk and more subjective value metrics are often not adequately captured in traditional Return-on-Investment calculations. As such, we would expect to see more use of Value-of-Investment calculations, as described in HERO’s Program Measurement and Evaluation Guide, in the future.5

Figure 1:  The promotion of safety, health, and well-being can be seen as mechanisms to reduce risk and add value. Health & Well-being promotion is often seen as a value-add.3

Looking Forward to More Data and More Insights

The results from the 2018 GRESB Health and Well-being module show that more and more companies around the world recognize the human and business benefits of promoting health. Over the past three years, participation in the GRESB health and well-being module has grown from 174 companies in 2016 to 297 companies in 2018 (a 71% increase). This year, a mix of both publicly traded (e.g., Sino Ocean Group Holding, Prologis) and private companies (e.g. Lendlease, CBRE Global Investors) were recognized as health and well-being leaders. These leading organizations have shown that promotion of health and well-being through passive building interventions and policy are areas of opportunity and value creation.
Next year, it will be exciting to see this data set expand as the health and well-being question set gets integrated into main 2019 GRESB Real Estate Assessment.

  1. Sustainability Roundtable Inc. Playbook for Sustainably Healthy Workplaces: Making the Business Case for Integrating Health and Wellness into Portfolio-Wide Sustainability Strategies.; 2018. https://www.sustainround.com/research/playbook-for-sustainably-healthy-workplaces/.
  2. GRESB. 2018 GRESB Real Estate Results. https://www.gresb.com/2018-real-estate-results/. Published 2018. Accessed October 4, 2018.
  3. Worden K, Trowbridge M. GRESB Health 2018: What’s New. https://www.gresb.com/gresb-health-2018-whats-new/. Published 2018. Accessed October 4, 2018.
  4. Allen JG, MacNaughton P, Satish U, Santanam S, Vallarino J, Spengler JD. Associations of Cognitive Function Scores with Carbon Dioxide, Ventilation, and Volatile Organic Compound Exposures in Office Workers: A Controlled Exposure Study of Green and Conventional Office Environments. Environ Health Perspect. 2015;124(6). doi:10.1289/ehp.1510037.
  5. HERO and Population Health Alliance. Program Measurement and Evaluation Guide: Core Metrics for Employee Health Management.; 2015. https://hero-health.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/HERO-PHA-Metrics-Guide-FINAL.pdf.

This article is written by Stephanie Timm, PhD, WELL AP, LEED AP BD+C, Director, Delos Insights