A New Tool to Help Identify and Define Issues for Healthy Business Strategies

November 10, 2016
  • Martin Lemos

    Former Manager, BSR

With so many opportunities to invest in the health of employees and communities, a company can easily stretch itself too thinly and dilute its impact—especially when the company does not take full advantage of its existing resources or make decisions strategically.

The newest tool from BSR’s Healthy Business Coalition helps companies do just that: Our Strategy Tool uses BSR’s materiality approach to help intrapreneurs initiate a strategy process, consult internal leaders and external experts, and identify and prioritize those health issues where their business can have the most impact.

There is a vast universe of health issues that a company can address. For some, it’s easy to find the most material issues. For instance, a company that manufactures anti-malarial drugs can draw a clear connection to investing in tropical diseases and access-to-health issues. But for other companies, both in and outside of the health sector, understanding where they can play a role in supporting population health can be a challenge. The Strategy Tool guides healthy business intrapreneurs through a three-step prioritization process to help their companies build an impactful strategy.

Setting a Healthy Business Vision

Before launching into a strategy, it’s important for a company to develop a perspective on how the healthy business management approach aligns with current organizational goals. A healthy business vision forms the base of what a company will ultimately do—as well as how it will track outcomes and impacts.

We’ve identified three guiding questions to help intrapreneurs articulate the vision that will inform the strategy process.

  1. What is the company’s level of ambition? Knowing what is realistic for a company to pursue will help inform which health issues get selected.
  2. Who does the company want to reach? Identifying the target population a company is trying to support will better prioritize health issues for intervention.
  3. Where does the company want to have impact? Population health is largely influenced by location and environment. Pinpointing where a company can mobilize the greatest resources and connections will help identify which health issues to prioritize.

Gathering Insights from Stakeholders

Stakeholder insights form the backbone of a healthy business strategy. Intrapreneurs should select a targeted list of individuals and organizations to provide valuable perspectives on their company’s impacts, community priorities, and opportunities for collaboration. For external perspective, intrapreneurs should seek out stakeholders that can challenge assumptions, provide expertise, and inspire innovation. Conversely, for internal stakeholders, it is important to consult colleagues that can provide insight on a company’s health impacts, intersections with employees and communities, and implications of activities for business operations.

We’ve identified sample questions intrapreneurs can use to help determine their company’s health priorities, such as:

  • What public health issues can pose significant risks to business performance?
  • In what ways are health issues and corporate strategy already aligned?
  • What are the long-term risks for the business as they relate to health?
  • How can the business drive value from investment in health?

Interpreting the Results

The Strategy Tool includes an Excel spreadsheet that allows intrapreneurs to generate a matrix of healthy business priorities by inputting qualitative insights from stakeholders. Issues are ranked high or low according to their influence on business drivers and social impacts on the business’ target community. Where issues fall on the matrix (pictured below) will determine how they play into a company’s healthy business strategy. Those issues in the “leadership” quadrant are of critical importance—firmly in the company’s wheelhouse, these are most relevant to business goals and have the greatest social impact. That makes them ideally suited for intervention.

The healthy business matrix should not be the end of discussion but rather an opportunity for reflection. The initial results may contain some surprises that merit further analysis. The scoring model is designed to serve only as guidance—ultimately, intrapreneurs should share results with stakeholders to gather feedback that will help define an approach to healthy business priorities.

More importantly, the process of gathering insights and developing internal perspectives will help companies identify where they can best serve to improve population health. Our next tool, the Healthy Business Innovation Playbook, will help companies channel these priorities into new offerings and programs. 

Let’s talk about how BSR can help you to transform your business and achieve your sustainability goals.

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