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Companies that Focus on Health and Safety Are Better Investments, Study Suggests

Sept. 13, 2013
In a new study, firms with strong health, wellness and safety programs bested the S&P 500 average rate of return in investment simulations.

Here's a stock-picking strategy: Companies with a strong culture of health, safety and wellness generate higher returns for investors than other firms.

Researchers tracked the stock-market performance of companies that have received ACOEM's Corporate Health Achievement Award, which annually recognizes the healthiest and safest companies in North America.

Tracking an initial theoretical investment of $10,000 in publicly traded award recipients from the mid 1990s to 2012, the researchers found that the award-winning companies outperformed the S&P 500.

The researchers from HealthNEXT LLC created four investment scenarios, using a combination of simulations and past market performance to create investor portfolios for comparison. While the margin of return varied, recipients of the health and safety award outperformed the market in each of the four scenarios, according to the study, which was published in the September issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

In the highest-performing scenario, award-winning companies had an annualized return of 5.23 percent, compared with minus .06 percent for the S&P 500. In the lowest-performing scenario, award-winning companies had an annualized return of 6.03 percent, compared with 2.92 percent for the S&P 500.

"Our results strongly support the view that focusing on health and safety of a workforce is good business," said the study authors. "Engaging in a comprehensive effort to promote wellness, reduce the health risks of a work force and mitigate the complications of chronic illness within these populations can produce remarkable impacts on health care costs, productivity and performance."

The authors acknowledge that the study focuses on the performance of a small collection of companies on the stock market for a limited number of years, and that more research is needed before a strong causal relationship can be established between health and safety programs and market results.

However, they conclude that the study adds new evidence-based data to a growing body of literature indicating that "healthy work forces provide a competitive financial advantage in the marketplace."

"Although correlation is not the same as causation, results consistently and significantly suggest that companies focusing on the health and safety of their workforce are yielding greater value for their investors," the authors wrote.

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