November 3, 2022
The climate crisis is having a profound impact on the health of nations. Droughts and extreme weather events are threatening the lives of people everywhere. Our water and food supplies are at risk, and infectious diseases are becoming more frequent. World leaders gathering in Sharm el-Sheikh for the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference must address this crisis.
Last year, delegates at COP26 in Glasgow started to bring health into focus, thanks to the vocal advocacy of the global health community. This year, leading voices at COP27 must take concrete steps to ensure that health is center stage in all discussions on climate harm and climate response.
As one key step in this direction, the Reform for Resilience Commission calls on the global community to strengthen ESG standards by incorporating health metrics. These upgraded standards must be the foundation guiding both private- and public-sector investment to build more resilient societies.
There has been some progress on this front: Last year at COP26, the International Financial Reporting Standards Foundation announced that it would develop a set of universal standards to measure companies’ commitment to sustainability. Members of our leadership team are actively working with policymakers, international organizations and the private sector to build the analytical foundation for such metrics.
As a crucial next step, we urge all participants in COP27, especially the corporate sector, to elevate health as a key driver of business decisions and ESG investments. Coupled with transparent metrics of impact, this approach will allow investors and consumers to better identify sustainable businesses and will encourage decision-making that helps, rather than harms, the public good.
Investing in health is not just the morally right thing to do. Companies that focus on their staff’s well-being often outperform their rivals. Those that prioritize the needs of their communities alongside the financial interests of their shareholders will be more resilient and therefore better positioned to build long-term growth and rebound after external shocks.
Too often in both the political and the economic spheres, decision-makers view environmental initiatives in isolation, without considering the long-term health impacts of their action or inaction. We can no longer afford to separate these two realms. To build better resilience at every level of society, we must focus on both.