Making the investment in healthy people, healthy planet and healthy performance
Corporations today are obliged to go beyond delivering business results. They should also improve the quality of life of their employees, their communities and society at large – and report out on this progress. This month Humana released its 2010-2011 corporate social responsibility (CSR) report. For the first time, Humana’s report follows the Global Reporting Initiative framework. And we became the only major health care insurer to do so. Here’s why disclosing environmental, social and governance data is important, now more than ever:
1. Trust in business remains low. The 2012 Trust Barometer that Edelman, the communications firm, develops annually revealed that public trust in business, government and NGOs shrank in 2011. What struck me, in particular, is that the 47 percent of the public who think business is doing what’s right tie their belief largely to “business competence, like delivering consistent financial returns.” However, societal behaviors – listening to customer needs, treating employees well, putting customers ahead of profits, and having ethical business practices – are ranked higher in importance for building future trust.
With that understanding, corporations have an opportunity to build future trust through demonstrating that social responsibility is a priority and business takes it as seriously as reporting financial results.
2. Business must be profoundly transparent. Voluntary reporting allows us in particular to put a stake in the ground and be accountable for targets such as those we’ve outlined in Humana’s report: to reduce our energy consumption, greenhouse-gas emissions and energy expenses by 10 percent by the end of 2012 from 2009’s baseline, and hire 1,000 military veterans and/or their spouses across the company, to name a few examples.
Of course, business doesn’t always succeed at hitting such targets – and it must be transparent about that, too. Starbucks took such a stance, admitting publicly that it didn’t achieve energy reduction goals for 2010. Stakeholders appreciate such candor and can then better understand such situations when they arise.
3. Companies cannot afford to slide in their efforts to improve the environmental performance of their operations. Why? In addition to the long-term environmental implications, investing in sustainability is a financial investment. In a study, McKinsey & Company, the management consultancy, projected the U.S. could save $1.2 trillion through 2020 by investing $520 billion in such improvements as sealing leaky building ducts and replacing inefficient appliances with new, energy-saving models. Evidence also exists that companies that demonstrate responsibility reap increased employee engagement and morale, higher employee-retention rates and better performance.
We’ve all heard: What gets measured gets managed. At Humana, we firmly believe the long-term investments we make in our CSR initiatives help us build trust, increase transparency, save money and earn the license not only to exist but to lead. We’re proud to share this progress through our industry-leading CSR report.