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Employee well-being is an emerging key environmental, social and governance (ESG) issue for companies and investors

"The next big ESG issue? Employee well-being", 8 October 2021

Employee well-being is one of the key emerging environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues for companies and investors to watch out for as the cost of stress associated with the Covid-19 pandemic is posing an operational risk to businesses. 

Speaking on a panel at the Singapore Sustainable Investing & Financing Conference during Ecosperity Week in Singapore on Thursday, Martina Cheung, president at analytics firm S&P Global Market Intelligence, said that the mental and physical health of employees is becoming a key issue for the ‘S’ in ESG, as companies consider the business risks of not taking good care of their staff.

A growing number of companies, including logistics firm FedEx, social media company Twitter and pharmaceuticals brand Johnson & Johnson, have made changes to improve the economic, physical and mental well-being of their employees over the past few years. Firms that had robust benefits such as paid sick leave and parental leave in place before the pandemic struck, have been better able to ride out the crisis. 

An April global study by insurance firm AXA found that 95 per cent of respondents said that a high intensity work environment for employees is a key business risk, and conditions such as burnout and poor mental health are a material risk to business performance.

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Interest in the social side of sustainability has mushroomed off the back to the pandemic, with more companies looking to improve their credentials in diversity, gender, inclusion and labour practices. This is reflected in the number of companies that completed S&P’s Global Corporate Sustainability Assessment increasing by 50 per cent in a year, said Cheung. 

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