Recent events have illuminated the very real financial and economic effects of employee wellness on business success. Although the COVID-19 pandemic had significant negative impacts on businesses,i firms that did a better job of engaging employees and other stakeholders were better able to limit the corrosive impact of the pandemic,ii reinforcing the idea that treating employees as assets rather than costs gives companies a financial advantage.

The US Supreme Court ruling in June 2022 on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which allows states to limit access to reproductive healthcare, could have similar negative effects on business performance. Childbearing and childbirth affect women’s ability to fully participate in the workforce and build wealth, so the options women and families have regarding reproductive healthcare, such as access to reproductive counseling, wellness benefits, birth control and abortion are vitally important. Restricted access to reproductive healthcare has resulted in an annual economic shortfall in the US estimated at $105 billion, because such restrictions affect decisions on workforce participation, job mobility, and educational advancement.iii 

Given this context, Impax has recently written to the CEOs of the companies held in its Global Women’s Leadership Strategy, requesting that they review and disclose practices and the principles that govern employee health and well-being.

We believe a comprehensive support policy for all employees and their families, regardless of their physical location or employment level, should include issues such as:

  • Access to a broad range of paid time off, including parental leave, sick leave, safe leave, and voting leave
  • The opportunity to opt into or out of family planning and reproductive healthcare benefits
  • Family-friendly workplaces, including child- and eldercare
  • Access to emotional well-being resources, including mental health resources

In our letter, we also asked that management review their practices carefully in light of their potential to support more resilience among employees, and for their businesses writ large.

We are hopeful that by initiating this dialogue with our portfolio companies, we can drive engagement and progress for all employees.

iMarie Christine Apedo-Amah, et al., “Unmasking the Impact of COVID-19 on Businesses:  Firm Level Evidence from Across the World,” World Bank Group, October 2020.  World Bank Document

iiSudipta Bose et al., “COVID-19 impact, sustainability performance and firm value:  international evidence,” Accounting and Finance 62 (022), 597-643.  COVID‐19 impact, sustainability performance and firm value: international evidence – Bose – 2022 – Accounting & Finance – Wiley Online Library

iii“As States Eye Texas-Style Abortion Bans, Economic Costs to Bottom Line and Women are High,” Institute for Women’s Policy Research, September 13, 2021. As States Eye Texas-Style Abortion Bans, Economic Costs to Bottom Line and Women are High – IWPR

Heather Smith

Head of Stewardship

Heather researches and evaluates the ESG performance of companies for potential inclusion in Impax Asset Management portfolios. She is a member of the firm’s Gender Analytics team and the Impax Sustainability Centre. Heather helps oversee our proxy voting and coordinates its equity, diversity, and inclusion-related shareholder engagements.

Heather has held this role since joining Impax in 2007. Prior to that, she was a legislative aide for the New Hampshire State Senate.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of New Hampshire and an MBA from the Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics from the same university.

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