Ethical Performance
inside intelligence for responsible business


Unilever health scheme raises productivity

January 2006

Companies investing in health promotion can obtain almost a fourfold return on their outlay thanks to increased staff productivity, the results of a Unilever exercise indicate.

The consumer goods company ran a year-long experiment in which it gave 600 of its UK employees advice on nutrition, stress and fitness, then compared their work performance with that of 1700 workers who had not received such help.

Analysis by the Harvard Medical School and the US-based Institute for Health and Productivity Management showed that performance, as rated by the staff themselves, improved by nine per cent among those who had received health advice – but stood still among the others.

Short-term absence was slightly lower among those who received health promotion advice, whereas the number of sick days in the control group rose. The healthiest 25 per cent of the health promotion group was estimated to be 18 per cent more productive than the least healthy quarter in the control group.

Vielife, which provided Unilever’s health promotion packages, ‘conservatively’ estimates that the improvements translate into a return on investment of £3.73 ($6.50) for every £1 spent. Unilever says it is looking at expanding health promotion activities as a result.

Business in the Community recently began a campaign to persuade companies to put workplace health programmes higher on their social responsibility agendas – a view endorsed by the UK government (EP7, issue 3, p7).

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