HSPH News | Helping Businesses Do Good for People and the Planet

Companies working to reduce their negative impact on the environment often measure their progress by the size of their footprint. Researchers with the Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health initiative SHINE (Sustainability and Health Initiative for NetPositive Enterprise) encourage businesses to do more. The group works with companies to analyze their handprint—initiatives such as work-life balance policies and greener products that create a positive business impact—with a goal of having companies achieve a greater handprint than footprint, a position referred to as NetPositive.

“SHINE is a unique collaboration of the academy and business to approach sustainability,” said Eileen McNeely, co-director of SHINE and instructor in the Department of Environmental Health. In their work with companies, SHINE aims to help leaders envision well-being for people and the planet as part of their business strategy, she said.

SHINE recently convened more than 100 academic and business leaders, including representatives from Levi Strauss & Co, Dell, Eaton, Target, and Google, for its second summit. The SHINE NetPositive Summit: Determined to Thrive took place June 15–17 at Radcliffe’s Knafel Center on Harvard’s campus.

Building on the momentum from last year’s meeting, which was by invitation only, SHINE opened up this year’s summit to a public audience but capped participation to maintain small group intimacy, said SHINE program leader Karoline Barwinski. Attendees represented a range of roles in their companies, from senior management and coordinators of corporate wellness programs, to product developers and operations managers. This mix made for productive conversations among attendees, Barwinski said.

Speakers at the summit discussed topics including procuring healthier food from sustainable local sources, measuring the effects of job strain on health, improving the built environment to promote worker well-being, fostering purpose and meaning through volunteer service, and addressing economic well-being for employees. Well-being was discussed from the perspective of the company and the supply chain.

A representative from SHINE member company Owens Corning shared its efforts to improve employees’ mental health, instigated by data about its relative importance for employee well-being from the SHINE well-being survey. Steps taken at Owens Corning include integrating tools such as stress management into its safety training.

Barwinski said, “We look forward to working with companies on implementing some of the inspiring research and business strategy ideas that came out of the Summit this year, and to reporting on further progress in 2017.”

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