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IWBI's 12 Competencies & what they mean for your ESG reporting

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  • July 15, 2022 | Chris Ogletree
IWBI's 12 Competencies & what they mean for your ESG reporting

IWBI's 12 Competencies & what they mean for your ESG reporting

Over the last few years, social issues such as racial inequality, worker compensation, and employee health and safety have taken the spotlight in the marketplace, causing businesses to reassess their approach to equity, health, and well-being while adopting a people-first mindset.

ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) investor demands are also placing greater emphasis on nonfinancial metrics like human and social capital in order to more comprehensively understand risk and return and demonstrate value.

ESG investing is maturing and continues to gain prominence among investors and younger demographics. According to Morgan Stanley, 88% of Millennials expressed interest in climate-themed investments and the majority of investors are increasingly using ESG factors to guide their investment decisions.

While the investment community has historically failed to acknowledge the materiality of health to organizations, this increasing market demand demonstrates the growing need for human and social capital leadership. Health and well-being are becoming a significant part of sustainable investing frameworks as they are acknowledged as a competitive advantage.

However, a defined method for assessing and reporting on an organization's commitment to and impact on human health is necessary to demonstrate success. As businesses compete for sustainability-focused investment capital, the need for streamlined ESG data and reporting standards is growing, yet they’re still in their infancy stage.

To address this gap, the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) is focusing on social factors and developing a framework to elevate human health, well-being, and equity to demonstrate the materiality of health to an organization's bottom line.

What is the International WELL Building Institute?

IWBI is leading a movement to transform health and well-being through a people-first approach to buildings, organizations, and communities and by collaborating with capital market influencers, regulators, sustainability framework setters, and leading corporations.

IWBI mobilizes the wellness community through management of the WELL Building Standard, research, educational resources, and advocacy for health and wellness policies. IWBI is a participant of the United Nations Global Compact, the world’s largest corporate citizenship initiative, and also helps companies advance the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through the use of IWBI’s WELL Building Standard (WELL).

WELL is a leading global rating system and the first to be focused exclusively on the ways that buildings and organizations can improve comfort, drive better choices, and enhance people’s health and well-being. Developed over 10 years and supported by scientific research, WELL elevates health and well-being across the entire ESG landscape through strategies designed to protect and promote the physical, mental and social well-being of employees and stakeholders.

A new framework is born

The relationship between employee health and business performance is now undeniable, and it is crucial to have verified information and comparable measures of an organization’s greatest asset, its people, especially for the investment community that seeks to manage risk and assess financial performance.

To address this gap, IWBI sought a unique, adaptive, cross-disciplinary approach to a reporting platform that would provide:

  • A research-based framework for companies to use to initiate efforts and track progress over time in a way that encourages transparency.
  • Categories that are broad enough to remain stable for use in benchmarking, strategic planning, and annual reporting.
  • Consistent categories that also allow for customization.
  • A holistic framework that shows the relationship between specific metrics of health and well-being at multiple scales.

In March of 2022, IWBI introduced the 12 Competencies for Measuring Health & Well-being for Human & Social Capital. The 12 Competencies offers a research-based framework to assist companies in measuring and tracking the effects of their investments in health and well-being over time on multiple levels. The framework draws on insights from IWBI’s research from 35,000+ projects in 109 countries that are part of the WELL ecosystem. IWBI's global Research Advisory and 15 WELL survey providers, who have together surveyed more than 1.5 million individuals worldwide, also contribute advice and insight.

These competencies provide companies with a way to rethink health and well-being strategies that can help drive organizational culture, strategy, and ESG reporting. They help unify social reporting across various markets and allow for benchmarking of the long-debated question, “What social metrics matter and how do we track them?”

A deeper look at the 12 Competencies

The 12 Competencies are organized into five levels referencing the socio-ecological framework used extensively in public health. Users can explore how health, well-being, and other outcomes related to human and social capital intersect at various scales, including individual, organizational, environmental, community, and global impacts.

Within each scale, there are target areas of achievement, or competencies, for organizations to track and monitor. Each competency is supported by more detailed measurement categories.


  • Health and wellbeing: Physical and mental health, mental health resilience, health behaviors
  • Thriving: Work-life balance, role strain, purpose, energy, ability to recharge
  • Performance energy and performance motivation: Employee thriving, work structure and relationships, engagement, perceived core and support
  • Employee effectiveness: Perceived focus, attention, and performance, job satisfaction


  • Organizational performance: Organizational, leadership and employee effectiveness, financial well-being
  • Organizational culture and engagement: Organizational strategy and execution, structure, relationships and communication, talent management, engagement
  • Risk management: Diversity, equity and inclusion, emergency preparedness, health and safety, asset and organizational resilience
  • Environment of care and support: Workplace and leadership, actual and perceived support of well-being, collective well-being


  • Ambient environmental quality: Performance testing on light, air quality, thermal comfort, acoustics, water quality
  • Occupant and market perceptions of indoor environmental quality: Perceived satisfaction, indoor environmental quality, health and safety, aesthetics and design, inclusive design, design for sense of place


  • Community and stakeholder engagement: Community engagement policies and initiatives, shared/collective values and practices, location and amenities, equity and historical acknowledgment


  • Environmental, Social and Governance transparency and reporting: ESG, CSR, UN SDGs, carbon reporting, green building standards, natural capital, biodiversity impact reporting

This structured, multi-level approach helps organizations improve and track the measurement of health and well-being for human and social capital in a holistic, logical, and easily communicated fashion. Organizations can also choose relevant competences and accompanying metrics from the framework to track over time based on their own needs from an individual to a global scale. Additionally, it provides a baseline for standardizing the previously ambiguous social metrics of ESG and allows for comparison of performance within markets.

Investing in people

In a time when investments in people and the social environment are being closely tracked and more critically examined, leading companies are recognizing the need to demonstrate their efforts and impact. But the benefits of addressing ESG issues extend beyond satisfying institutional shareholders and building a positive public image. Strong social ESG programs can help companies retain talent, gain access to vast pools of capital, strengthen their company identity, and encourage long-term growth.

Using frameworks such as IWBI’s 12 Competencies for Measuring Health & Well-being for Human & Social Capital, corporations can become more transparent and mindful in the treatment of their employees, relationships with their supply chains, and their support of the communities in which they operate.

ESG materiality assessments

With investors inquiring more and more frequently about what your company is doing in regard to responsible investment, how you treat employees and vendors, your dedication to sustainability initiatives, and other activities that fall under the ESG umbrella, it’s important to have answers to these questions.

An ESG materiality assessment empowers you to easily report on your current state and outline future initiatives while taking into consideration your business goals and risks. Download our guide to creating and extracting the maximum strategic value from an ESG materiality assessment.

Download guide

Chris Ogletree

In his role as Marketing Manager, Chris oversees website administration & development of a wide range of content, including email campaigns, social media, & marketing collateral, as well as supporting improvements to the design & functionality of the platform.

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