The launch of the Financial Time’s campaign for capitalism to be reset is welcome. The FT’s editorial team believes that the time is now for corporates to move away from focusing on the narrow objective of maximising profits and delivering short-term value to shareholders. Instead, they should be operating in a way which “elevates broader interests” and delivers for other critical stakeholders as well, namely employees, the environment and customers.
Firstly, while this approach will require a shift in thinking and operations, it is entirely consistent with profitable, healthy business success. Focusing solely on delivering short term shareholder value, is more likely to burn out employees, the environment and doesn’t allow space for considering the long-term needs of customers, clients or future shareholders. Secondly, the way in which businesses operate is increasingly under the spotlight and is becoming a reputational issue. Organisations which do not, for example, support the health of their employees or operate in an environmentally sustainable way, are being called out via both social and mass media.
Key stakeholders, including customers and employees, especially the next generation, or generation Z, have increasingly more social conscious expectation of businesses. Businesses that work to meet, or even exceed these expectations, are more likely to attract talent and foster employee, customer and client loyalty. As the FT says, “the long-term health of free enterprise capitalism will depend on delivering profit with purpose.”
But what does the concept of “resetting capitalism” look like? I believe that CMHA members can be a source of inspiration for “elevating broader interests” in terms of mental health and wellbeing. Around one in four of us will experience a mental health problem each year. In England, one in six people report experience a common mental health problem (such as anxiety or depression) each week. Meanwhile, mental health costs the UK economy up to £99 billion each year and employers between £33 and £42 billion.
Our members across the UK and Hong have taken significant steps to support the positive mental health and wellbeing of their employees. This has ranged from effectively challenging stigma of mental health in the workplace through awareness raising campaigns, such as This Is Me, which is often led by senior leadership. Our members have supported line managers and senior managers to spot signs and confidently discuss mental health with employees, by offering training, such as Mental Health First Aid. Bupa, for example, has trained its entire board with these skills and Allen & Overy has developed its own mental health training for line managers.
Meanwhile, organisations, such as Hogan Lovells have psychologists or counsellors on site should employees need support. While the Bank of England has a very active and influential mental health network, and Legal and General has formed peer support groups for staff and hosts its annual Not a Red Card awards which celebrate organisations that are taking proactive steps to tackle the stigma surrounding mental health in the workplace. To influence change beyond just London, Deloitte recently hosted our first regional event in Manchester, and we will be continuing a regional programme of events in the coming year.
Many members are also supporting the health of people beyond the workplace. For example, during the recent construction of Goldman Sachs’s new London HQ building, the bank took steps to ensure that they offered mental health support to the construction workers involved. Lloyds Banking Group has become the first major organisation to sign up to the Mental Health Accessible standards, to make their banking services more accessible to any of their 30 million customers who may be living with mental health issues.
The common theme across all CMHA members is that these interventions are part of a purposeful strategy, which is being led from the Boardroom. I look forward to seeing more business leaders ensure that their businesses are managed to not only make a profit but also to serve a purpose. I am hopeful that we will see more businesses measure the triple bottom line – people, planet and profit. After all, the long-term health of each are inextricably linked.