The gap is widening between the biggest UK companies that best support employees’ mental health – such as BT Group and Sainsbury’s – and the majority that are slow to act, according to the latest CCLA Corporate Mental Health Benchmark – UK 100.

But 96% of all these companies now invest in some level of mental health support services for employees, said the research.

The annual benchmark, produced by CCLA Investment Management – which manages funds for charities, religious organisations and the public sector in addition to its retail investment offering – rates companies according to how they manage and report on mental health, placing them in one of five performance tiers.

Positive indicators include the provision of multiple mental health support services, mental health training to line managers and the publication of a chief executive officer commitment on workplace mental health.

Evaluations were carried out from publicly-available information. CCLA was advised on the design and development by Chronos Sustainability, a specialist sustainability advisory firm with expertise in targeted benchmark initiatives, and an expert advisory panel.

While six of the 101 firms assessed ranked in the top tier, 19 – including Pearson and Greggs – were in the bottom tier.

For investors in these companies, mental health policies can be an aspect of the ESG overlay, whether formally or informally. But they also have financial implications.

“There is a growing awareness by companies of poor mental health as a business risk, with many informally citing talent acquisition and retention as a key driver,” said Amy Browne, stewardship lead at CCLA. “Conversely, supporting mental health can unlock value.”

The benchmark is primarily designed as a tool to guide investors in engaging with companies, rather than using it to include or exclude companies from their portfolios.

“But if a company remains in the bottom tier for several years, there will come a time when investors may question whether or not they should continue to invest,” Browne observed.

The benchmark is supported by a global investor coalition of 54 institutions with an aggregate $9.4trn of assets under management, one-third of whom use it as an engagement tool.

Coalition signatories commit to using the benchmark to encourage companies to signal senior management commitment to promoting mental health in the workplace, and set targets to improve workplace mental health.

Signatories include the Brunel Pension Partnership, Railpen, Fondo Cometa and Stichting Pensioenfonds Voor Huisartsen (SPH), together with Achmea, Cardano Asset Management and Federated Hermes.

While there is more to be done in terms of improving employee mental health, Browne says that the leading companies in the benchmark can help to drive forward those who perform more poorly.

“A rising tide lifts all boats. Sometimes the quickest and most efficient way of improving one’s own holdings is by changing the system,” she said.

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