Helping the environment is more than just watching your carbon output or planting more trees. It means taking care of your human capital in sustainable ways as well.

Many businesses are turning to ESG (environmental, social, and governance) programs to make that happen. Innovative employee health benefit programs guide employees who want to be as healthy and productive as possible—leading to lower healthcare costs over time. In addition, many investment firms are also turning their eyes toward investing in companies that promote environmental and social goals.

Private equity leader KKR, for example, has put Ken Mehlman, Global Head of Public Affairs, in charge of their ESG programs and investments. One of these initiatives is KKR’s Wellness Works program, which aims to help employees at KKR and its portfolio companies lead healthier and more productive lives.

Beginning in 2012, the Wellness Works program became the first workplace wellness program in existence. Rooted in a partnership between KKR and the American Heart Association, the program focused on giving employees the knowledge they need to better manage their health and wellness. In addition to KKR itself, four portfolio companies participated: FirstData, HCA, Sealy, and Visant.

The program works from a five-part model:

  1. Companies choose an incentive worth $250. In order to win it, participants must take a biometric screening measuring BMI, blood pressure, lipids, and glucose to determine their current state of health.
  2. Companies communicate to their employees the benefits and parameters of the program.
  3. Data collected from participants is processed by health management providers, who then reach out to participants with their results and further health resources.
  4. Biometric screenings continue to be taken periodically to study changes over time.
  5. All health information is managed using HIPAA guidelines.

Results from the program in 2012 were overwhelmingly positive, including improved employee productivity, recruitment, retention, and engagement. Over time, participating companies are likely to see reduced health costs, reduced risky behaviors, and reduced employee absenteeism.

Running a program like Wellness Works isn’t just a way of looking out for employees; there are real financial reasons for doing so as well. According to a study from MIT, investors are increasingly looking at companies’ ESG plans and investing only in those with a well-developed line of programs.

ESG investments and programs that protect the environment are extremely important for all kinds of companies. But ESG means environment and social and governance programs. And that means valuing employees and doing everything possible to support their good health and continued dedication to the company. After all, sustainable human capital is vital in business.