The approach to mental health has changed significantly in recent years, with the stigma that is often associated with it diminishing somewhat.
Imagine you’ve broken your arm, but you shouldn’t tell anyone or ask for help. What if it makes you look weak and unstable? People might question your abilities, worry about whether you’re ‘capable’. It sounds ridiculous doesn’t it? But if you replace ‘broken arm’ with ‘depression’ or ‘anxiety’, people often feel they are in a different, helpless situation.
Attitudes seem to be changing though. A 2015 study showed that 2.5million people in the UK have improved attitudes towards people with mental health problems, compared with 2011. Not quite there yet, but improving.
The World Health Organisation defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which an individual can realize his or her own potential, cope with the normal stresses of life, work productively and make a contribution to the community”. This is not just about the absence of a specific mental health condition, but is inextricably linked to the concept of human development: the creation of an environment in which people can develop to their full potential and lead productive and creative lives which add value.
A recent NHS study showed that one in three ‘sick notes’ handed out by GPs are now for mental health problems, with more than 5 million people being signed-off work every year. It is estimated that mental ill-health costs the UK around 4.5% of GDP per year in lost productivity at work, higher benefits spending and health care costs. Numerous studies have shown that a positive work environment supports productivity both in and out of the workplace, which in turn reduces stress and anxiety.
Throughout our sustainability analysis for the Kames Global Sustainable Fund we look at three dimensions:
- The product (the what)
- How the company operates (the how)
- The direction in which the company is going in terms of sustainability (ESG momentum)
We assess these three dimensions through factors which we believe are of material value to the particular company / sector.
We believe that employee health and wellbeing is material to every company we invest in. All of the companies we have classified as sustainability ‘leaders’ have established employee welfare programmes for staff to utilise both in and out of the workplace. These programmes include support available through private health schemes to in-house initiatives with a focus on mental healthcare.-
About the author
Georgina Laird is a sustainable investment analyst. She is responsible for analysing and monitoring environmental, social and governance factors within the Global Sustainable Equity Strategy. Georgina joined us in 2015 from Russell Investments where she was an index analyst. She joined Kames as a performance analyst before moving to the ESG Research team in 2016. Georgina has a BSc in Mathematics from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh. She has the IMC professional qualification and has 5 years’ industry experience*.
*As at 28 February 2018.