Human Wellbeing an Increasing Priority for Business with Launch of ISO Standard

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Human Wellbeing an Increasing Priority for Business with Launch of ISO Standard

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Wednesday, November 16, 2016 - 8:35am

CAMPAIGN: CBRE People and Culture


ISO standards have been steadily increasing in popularity amongst landlords and occupiers over the past two decades, and the most recent addition to this suite of best practice management systems is the British and International Standard BS/ISO 27500.

This standard promotes a ‘human-centred’ approach in organisations and makes recommendations for policies that can be implemented to achieve this.

ISO 27500 makes many links to other ISO standards, and encourages organisations to hold human wellbeing and safety as a key business priority, not only through their production of goods and services, but also in the manner in which they treat their employees. The new standard is not something which organisations can be certified to, like ISO 14001 and 50001 for example; instead it sets out general principles developed in order to provide guidance.

There are seven principles within ISO 27500 which characterise a human-centred organisation:

  1. Capitalise on individual differences as an organisational strength;
  2. Make usability and accessibility strategic business objectives;
  3. Adopt a whole system approach;
  4. Ensure health, safety and wellbeing and business priorities;
  5. Value employees and create a meaningful work environment;
  6. Be open and trustworthy; and
  7. Act in socially responsible ways.

This standard is applicable to all types of organisations and is designed to be read by the executive board and those responsible for policy-making. The origins of ISO 27500 can be seen to have emerged from the drive to make products human-centred in their design and ergonomics. Following ISO 9241-210 can help to achieve this in products, but ISO 27500 goes one step further in applying this to organisations.  ISO 27500 takes a whole system approach and considers how entire organisations—including public, private, charities and not-for-profit—can model themselves to place social factors and human wellbeing at the forefront of business decisions.

The launch of this standard comes amongst a rising tide of research on wellness and the importance of buildings being ‘healthy’; especially the benefits that companies receive through investments to create a healthy and supportive workplace: improved staff retention, fewer sick days, improved employee productivity [1].  Arguably, it has been the uptake of the Delos WELL Building Standard [2] since its launch in 2013 which has stimulated momentum amongst organisations to prioritise the wellbeing of their building users, and to strive to certify their buildings against this.  With the first few European WELL Building Standard projects expected to gain certification very soon—including One Carter Lane in the City of London [3], and CBRE’s own Madrid HQ [4]—there is increasing desire by organisations to go beyond that stipulated in mandatory legislation, and to actively choose to positively influence the people and places they interact with.

The Global Wellness Institute estimates that the global wellness industry is already a $3.4 trillion market [5].  Forward thinking occupiers are already aware – CBRE’s latest European Occupier Survey showed over 70% of occupiers have wellness programmes in place.  The launch of ISO 27500 is expected to further fuel both investment in wellbeing and responsible investment decisions by companies.  Keep watching this space!


[1] See Dodge Data & Analytics report (2016) The Drive Toward Healthier Buildings 2016: Tactical Intelligence to Transform Building Design and Construction.

[2] International Well Building Institute (2016) The Well Building Standard.