27 September 2016 | Martin Lemos, Associate, BSR
Introducing a new business concept is no easy task. Sustainability pioneers have their buy-in war stories: battling the skeptics, fighting for resources, and struggling to land approval from senior leaders. From these victories has emerged a clear approach to building consensus in organizations: Grab the low-hanging fruit, translate global issues into company imperatives, make the all-important business case. Not surprisingly, effective communication ties this all together.
BSR’s Healthy Business Coalition launched earlier this year to bring together businesses that want to improve population health while driving business success. A relatively new concept, “healthy business” is a management approach that seeks to create value and optimize performance by improving the health of consumers, employees, and communities.
Now with the first in a series of tools, we’re ready to help a new wave of pioneers introduce healthy business concepts to their organizations.
The Healthy Business Communications Guide is designed to help intrapreneurs, or change-makers within a company, successfully pitch their business’ decision-makers. The tool translates healthy business approaches into a compelling business opportunity by providing a set of key messages and proof points aimed at persuading senior management.
In the toolkit, we provide frameworks to help communicate the value of healthy business within an organization by helping intrapreneurs understand healthy business concepts, identify and communicate with different audiences, and build a successful pitch.
Understand Healthy Business
Though “healthy business” is a relatively new term to describe an emerging business concept, it is backed by extensive research on population health by public health academics. The basics are clear: Poor health drags down business performance, while good health is a secret weapon to business success. A healthy business responds by promoting the well-being of its employees, customers, and local communities.
Healthy business pioneers must connect the concept to the business by highlighting the opportunity that health and well-being represent. If, for example, a company is testing ways to reach new customers, the intrapreneur could highlight that consumers are increasingly looking for ways to stay healthy: The market for health and wellness products is currently estimated at US$267 billion. Or if company is challenged by talent retention and recruitment, the healthy business pioneer could focus on the win-win aspects of healthy business: Healthy employees are likely to be more engaged, loyal, and productive. U.S. businesses could gain an estimated 293 million working days by tackling health (a number calculated by aggregated data from the Chapman Institute and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014).
Know the Audience
Gaining buy-in to a healthy business initiative requires alignment with multiple functions. The C-suite, human resources, and marketing teams are important allies in the attempt to build a healthy business strategy—but half the battle is identifying whom to speak to. In the communications guide, we provide insights tailored to those roles and map the decision-maker journey. Buy-in can’t be rushed and will take planning. An intrapreneur has to steward the journey of these teams by winning their attention, building awareness of healthy business benefits, and finally clarifying the link between business priorities and this new opportunity.
The tool highlights common stakeholder priorities and provides readymade messages to address those concerns. For instance, to connect with C-suite leaders, we present succinct messages that align with concerns around creating business value—for example, health and well-being can be mined for new revenue streams and innovation and can reduce a company’s healthcare costs.
Build the Pitch
With an understanding of healthy business concepts and colleagues primed to become allies, it’s then time to get a decision. The toolkit plots a quick elevator pitch and provides a list of compelling data points to support key messages. It also anticipates some of the potential obstacles a healthy business pioneer may face. The C-suite may agree on principle but will want to know bottom-line costs and estimates on return-on-investment. Likewise, human resources may ask how this new healthy business strategy will affect healthcare costs or make the company a desirable place to work. And pitching to the marketing team requires talking about brand enhancement, unlocking new product or service innovation opportunities, and increasing brand relevance to consumers.
The tools, frameworks, and messaging provided in the toolkit will equip advocates to deliver clear messages to internal stakeholders and secure the buy-in to launch the healthy business strategy. Armed with these tools, we hope internal change-makers will direct more private-sector investment in the health of communities.
In future tools published by the Healthy Business Coalition, we will take these conversations further—including ways to focus, innovate, and engage stakeholders on a new healthy business strategy.