Why B Corps Should Expand Their Health and Wellness Programs

This is a weekly series of excerpts from the new book “The B Corp Handbook: How to Use Business as a Force for Good (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, October 2014). Click here to read the rest of the excerpts.

BCorp_Patagonia_Ad_02By Ryan Honeyman

Certified B Corporations are companies that have met rigorous, independent standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency. However, like any company, there are always areas of improvement.

One of the best areas for B Corps (and other sustainable businesses) to improve is by providing health and wellness programs to their employees. These programs usually focus on things like stress management, mental health, fitness, nutrition and work/life balance.

In addition to helping individual workers, healthy living programs have been shown to enhance a company’s bottom line. For example, Johnson & Johnson estimates that its health and wellness program had a return on investment of $2.71 for every dollar spent between 2002 and 2008. A study of a different employer found an even higher return: Every dollar invested in healthy interventions yielded $6 in health-care savings.

One innovative way of reducing stress is to keep workers and their families closer together. Patagonia (one of the most well-known B Corps) has provided subsidized, on-site child care since 1984. Founder Yvon Chouinard asserts that on-site child care is a profit center rather than a financial burden. “Seventy-one percent of our employees are women, and many occupy high-level management positions,” says Chouinard. “Studies have shown that it costs a company an average of $50,000 to replace an employee — from recruiting costs, training and loss of productivity. Our child-care center helps us retain our skilled moms.”

How can you implement this at your company?

There are many different things you can do to promote employee health and wellness. For example, B Corps offer a variety of benefits to workers, such as gardening classes, office yoga, discounted gym memberships, lunchtime running groups, organic fruit and healthy snacks, juicing classes, free access to a nutritionist, wellness goal-setting, and a company-hosted, community-supported agriculture program.

If you are inspired to create (or improve) your health and wellness program, consider talking to your insurance carrier about possible discounts and incentives. It is in their best interest to offer wellness options. The healthier your employees are, the fewer claims insurers will need to pay. In addition, try putting your health and wellness policy in writing. A formal policy is a useful communication tool that can help support a culture of wellness.

John Mackey of Whole Foods Market has an interesting approach to deciding which benefits to implement:

Every three years, we open up all the benefits for a mass vote. The leadership decides what percentage of the total revenue will go toward benefits for the company, and then assign the cost for every potential benefit. Team members prioritize and vote on the benefits that they most prefer. This process results in benefits that reflect the needs and desires of the majority of the team members in the company. Team members often select benefits that the leadership did not necessarily think were good decisions. For example, they got rid of the benefit that paid people for community service hours, opting instead for more paid time off.

For more information, check out the B Resource Guide “Creating an Employee Wellness Program.”

Image credit: B Lab

Ryan Honeyman helps organizations like Ben & Jerry’s, Method, Klean Kanteen, Nutiva, and CleanWell become Certified B Corporations and maximize the value of their B Corp certification. He is the author of The B Corp Handbook: How to Use Business as a Force for Good (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, October 2014). To get exclusive updates and free resources about the B Corp movement, sign up for Ryan’s monthly newsletter. You can also visit honeymanconsulting.com or follow Ryan on Twitter:@honeymanconsult.

Ryan Honeyman is a sustainability consultant, executive coach, keynote speaker, and author of "The B Corp Handbook: How to Use Business as a Force for Good" (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, October 2014), the world’s first book on B Corporations.Ryan helps businesses save money, improve employee satisfaction, and increase brand value by helping them maximize the value of their sustainability efforts, including helping companies certify and thrive as a B Corp. His clients include Ben & Jerry’s, Klean Kanteen, Nutiva, CleanWell, Exygy, and the Filene Research Institute.Honeyman Sustainability Consulting, a Certified B Corporation, was recently honored—alongside Patagonia, Seventh Generation, New Belgium Brewery, GoLite, and Method—on the 2014 B Corp “Best for the Environment List,” which recognizes businesses that have scored in the top 10% of all B Corps worldwide for positive environmental impact.Ryan has written articles for Utne Reader, TriplePundit, Sustainable Industries, and the Credit Union Times. He has also been a featured speaker at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, the Hass School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, San Francisco State University, Mills College, the California College of the Arts, the Sustainable Enterprise Conference, the Marin Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center, the New Sector Alliance, Nextspace, the Impact Hub Oakland, and the Impact Hub SoMa in San Francisco.Ryan holds a B.A. from the University of California, Santa Cruz and a M.Sc. from the London School of Economics and Political Science.

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