Investing for Health: Catalyzing investment in human and social capital

These are certainly challenging times for both the public’s health and for the global economy. We are currently facing an unprecedented pandemic that has upended not only the financial markets, but business as usual.

Incorporating health and well-being strategies into real estate development can maximize the full potential of the people who use those spaces. Above, employees work in IWBI’s WELL Certified Platinum office in New York. 

Our Team at the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) remains optimistic that corporations, the capital markets and society at large will come out of this crisis stronger and smarter, and the importance of human health to the global economy will finally gain broad recognition. Recent conversations with our clients give us confidence that these leading companies are using this time to place a renewed effort into their enterprise-wide sustainability strategies to address 21st-century risks and opportunities. IWBI is steadfast in our belief that we will emerge from this public health crisis with an increased focus on how health and well-being measures can improve human health and at the same time drive organizational and real estate values.

The U.S. Business Roundtable’s recent ‘Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation’ advocated for companies “to operate for the benefit of all stakeholders, not just for shareholders.” To build on this approach and catalyze market transformation toward realizing the value of human and social capital, IWBI is launching the Investing for Health Summit as part of The WELL Conference this August. Over the next few months leading up to the conference, we will be hosting a series of virtual convenings of global investors and business leaders. Our ambition is to make investing for health mainstream – to provide transparency and standardization to how companies disclose their impact on human health and well-being through their business operations in order to increase accountability and encourage responsible investment.

Through these initiatives, IWBI seeks to support and build upon outcomes of the multi-year collaboration between GRESB and the Green Health Partnership (a research initiative between the University of Virginia School of Medicine and the U.S. Green Building Council and supported by IWBI) to connect real estate and ESG reporting. Specifically, they co-developed the GRESB Health and Well-being Module from 2016 to 2018 and introduced the new health and well-being indicators in this year’s GRESB real estate benchmark. As Dr. Matthew Trowbridge, Associate Professor, University of Virginia School of Medicine and principal investigator for the Green Health Partnership research project, points out, “The 2019 GRESB real estate assessment is a critical milestone because it marks the year when health and well-being went from being an optional consideration in the module to a required disclosure benchmarked in the core GRESB assessment.” (Download the Green Health Partnership’s Health and Well-Being in Real Estate report to learn more about their ongoing work with GRESB).

In order to better protect the physical, mental and social well-being of our workers, supply chain and stakeholders, we’ll need to work together with leaders from a variety of sectors to drive improvements in reporting on human and social capital metrics that reflect our shared commitment to investing for health. Only by working collectively to incorporate health and well-being strategies into real estate development can we drive a new era of investing for health.

This article was written by Sarah Welton, Vice President, Commercial at the International WELL Building Institute.

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