The theme of this year’s World Health Organisation (WHO) World Health Day on 7 April is ‘Our planet, our health’, which focuses on raising awareness of the urgent actions needed to keep humans and the planet healthy.
WHO describes the climate crisis as the single biggest health threat we face. In other words, the two issues are interlocked. We can’t waste another minute through inaction – WHO estimates that more than 13 million people already die every year due to avoidable environmental causes. World Health Day is important to Octopus because tackling the dual threats to climate and health is the bedrock of what we do. We invest in pioneering businesses that are dedicated to addressing health and climate issues.
B is for better business
As a business, we have a responsibility ourselves to be accountable for what we do, so others can measure how our efforts to be more sustainable add up.
As a certified B Corp, every decision we make considers our five stakeholders: our employees, environment, community, customers and shareholders. If we get it right with these five, then we’ll take major steps forward in helping to resolve the interlinked climate and health problems.
During B Corp month in March, we announced that we intend to achieve the following “big bets” by April 2023 to support our five key stakeholders:
- 85% of our employees will invest their money in our share incentive plan to promote financial planning for needs like their healthcare.
- £3 billion invested in our three sustainability goals of building a sustainable planet, revitalising healthcare and empowering people.
- Support 25% of our portfolio companies to measure and reduce their carbon footprint.
- 7,000 hours of Octopus employees’ time will be given to support worthy causes including our charity partners; Thames21 and Goodgym through the Octopus Giving charitable foundation.
- We’ll be in the top 10% of all B Corps globally to ensure our business is accountable to people and the planet.
Tackling the health crisis
Our health sector investment team is one of Europe’s largest. We invest in companies that are bringing about positive change, like these:
- Biofidelity makes it possible to produce blood and tissue results for detecting genomic abnormalities in as little as four hours to save time and costs.
- Ori Biotech has developed a way to automate and scale up the biomanufacture of cell and gene therapy to treat patients with life-threatening illnesses.
- Imophoron is accelerating the speed of vaccine development and approval, including over-the-counter drugs that can be taken nasally rather than by injection.
- Quit Genius offers personalised addiction treatment (including tobacco, vaping, alcohol and opioid addictions) for organisations helping to keep the workforce healthy.
Tackling the climate crisis
Many of the companies we invest in are on the frontline of resolving the climate crisis by developing ways individuals can protect the planet. Here are three examples:
- Waste reduction is a big challenge that OLIO is taking on by enabling neighbours and local communities to share and re-distribute unwanted goods. In particular, unwanted food is used to support the growing number of ‘hidden hungry’ families hit by rising living costs
- The days of mass production, mass consumption and mass wastage are being ended by businesses like Unmade, which helps consumers to customise and design products, so less gets binned.
- Tracking our personal carbon emissions can help us reduce our own carbon footprint. Minimum is a sophisticated tech solution to help companies measure their carbon footprint, reduce their emissions to Net Zero, and report to stakeholders. Their solution is brilliant. In fact, so brilliant that Octopus bought a global license so that we can offer it free of charge to all the businesses we partner with.
Building a better future
As well as investing in businesses that make positive improvements to tackling the health and climate crises, Octopus also invests in ways to improve the built environment. This is important because building and construction account for nearly 40% of global carbon emissions¹. One of the ways we are doing this is through the £175 million Greener Homes Alliance, a partnership between Octopus Real Estate and Homes England. This offers loans to small and medium-sized housebuilders to construct 750 high-quality, energy-efficient homes. Furthermore, we plan to make our £1 billion care home portfolio net zero by 2040. Octopus funds nearly one third of all new quality care beds in the UK, so the total carbon reduction will be hundreds of tonnes of CO2 per year.
Caring for our elderly
In the UK, we face a demographic timebomb as more of us live longer. The cost burden, especially in healthcare, is huge but can be alleviated by building retirement communities that older people want to live in. It’s been estimated that by 2032, if an eighth of the over-80s in the UK lived in retirement communities, it could save the NHS and social services some £2.1 billion annually². We’ve been working with leading operators and care homes since 2010 to achieve this goal. Currently, we manage a portfolio of nearly 80 purpose-built care homes. Driving the demand for care homes are the affluent ‘baby boomer’ generation, whose expectations for the quality of care have risen sharply. Answering that need will ease pressure on the public sector.
Acting now to safeguard our future
All in all, Octopus is working hard to make a real difference. But we know there is plenty more we can all do, both individually and as businesses. If this year’s World Health Day is to make a lasting impact by keeping people and the planet healthy, then we need to keep changing attitudes and continue taking positive actions. That’s certainly our commitment.