UN agency launches ESG metrics to measure workplace reproductive healthcare access

Dive Brief:

  • The United Nations Population Fund debuted an initiative Thursday geared toward improving employees’ sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights in the workplace. The agency unveiled a slate of metrics organizations can use to measure their performance across various social and healthcare issues being faced by their employees.
  • The UNFPA, which aims to enhance reproductive and maternal health across the globe, also seeks to push organizations to include such social metrics within their ESG reporting framework. The new metrics, which focus on issues such as workplace harassment and maternity leave, were released in a new research paper, produced in collaboration with consulting firm Accenture.
  • The paper provides a scorecard that allows organizations — particularly in the private sector — to assess their progress in areas such as prenatal, childbirth and postnatal care; prevention of sexual and gender-based violence; and counseling services for contraception and family-planning goals.

Dive Insight:

Advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights is a “key stepping-stone to creating safe, healthy and equitable workplaces,” especially as most employees spend a substantial part of their reproductive years at their place of work, UNFPA said in the paper.

According to the agency’s research, women spend between 40%-60% of their reproductive years at their workplace, while an estimated 190 million women work in global supply chains based in countries where women’s health needs have a high rate of being unmet. UNFPA’s research also revealed that 38% of countries don’t provide maternity leave that meets the International Labour Organization’s standard of a minimum leave period of 14 weeks.

The paper also presented a business case for why organizations should incorporate sexual and reproductive health practices and goals. UNFPA said such social initiatives not only have a significant impact on employee welfare, but also improve the bottom lines of businesses.

Instituting strong protocols to support women employees’ sexual and reproductive health and prevent sexual harassment and discrimination demonstrates a commitment to ethical business practices and to employee well-being,” UNFPA Executive Director Natalia Kanem said in an email to ESG Dive, HR Dive’s sister publication. “Such measures could also help boost companies’ balance sheets.

Kanem also noted that small modifications to corporate social and healthcare policies such as providing sanitary pads and iron tablets in the workplace and covering employees’ fertility treatments have increased workplace productivity and enabled employers to better attract and retain talent.

The agency’s scorecard of indicators and metrics also included issues such as the prevention and treatment of HIV, AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases; prevention and care of reproductive cancers and counseling services for women’s menstrual and menopausal health.

The scorecard separated actions companies could take to better their social policies into three sections: enacting workplace policies that promote sexual and reproductive healthcare; raising awareness of such policies and available employee resources, and enabling access to relevant health services.