Senior Vice President,
Sodexo North America
The mission of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is to promote policies that will improve the economic and social well-being and quality of life of people around the world. The OECD works with governments, labor and business to share experiences and seek solutions to common problems.
In May 2013, Sodexo and the OECD embarked on a three-year partnership to better understand and promote Quality of Life as a factor of progress and development. During Sodexo’s inaugural Quality of Life Conference, Mari Kiviniemi, OECD Deputy Secretary General and former Prime Minister of Finland, discussed the organization’s work. Their research has found that quality of life depends on jobs, education and health.
She stressed that government and society’s leaders have a responsibility to reduce inequality and improve well-being. In recent years, countries worldwide have been seeking stability in the wake of the economic crisis. Many OECD nations struggle with low growth, stubborn unemployment and acceleration in inequality. Reducing inequality is economically intelligent, as well as a moral, social, and political imperative, she said. OECD analyses show that high levels of inequality harm long-term economic growth. Inequality touches every area of life, including employment opportunities, access to education, and the ability to lead a long and healthy life.
People in disadvantaged communities are less likely to have access to good schools than their wealthier peers. Since education and skills are crucial for finding quality jobs, this sets residents of disadvantaged communities on a predetermined path of hardship.
Kiviniemi described several initiatives that aim to measure and improve well-being:
The OECD Better Life Initiative. Through this program, the OECD is measuring and comparing where countries stand on a range of well-being measures such as health, work-life balance, education, income and more. The initiative also includes the Better Life Index (www.oecdbetterlifeindex.org). This web-based tool invites citizens to create their own well-being index and share their views with the OECD. To date, the site has received more than 6 million visits from almost every country. More than 90,000 people have shared their views on what is most important for their lives. Health, education and being satisfied with one’s life topped the list.
National well-being indicators. The world is making well-being a priority. National well-being indicators are under development in the United Kingdom, Japan, Austria, Mexico and more.
Industry initiatives. Leaders from companies like Sodexo and Steelcase are implementing well-being policies at a faster rate in many cases than governments. The OECD has found that there are three areas critical to improving quality of life:
- Jobs. Having a job is one of the most powerful determinants of quality of life. However, the number of young people who are not in school, employed or in training is alarmingly high in many countries. More work needs to be done to generate more jobs, as well as better jobs. This will lead to lower unemployment and higher levels of well-being.
- Education and skills. Everyone should have access to high-quality education and training opportunities. Schools must prepare students for a world where they are constantly adjusting to new technologies, new business models, and new ways of working. People also must become skilled at teamwork, entrepreneurship, flexibility, and resilience.
- Health. Making health systems sustainable is a major task for all industrialized and aging countries.
As the OECD works to advance these goals, it has seen benefits from greater collaboration between the public and private sectors. The partnership with Sodexo is one example of public and private sector leaders working together on strategic priorities, such as improved well-being worldwide.
Jennifer Williamson is Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications for Sodexo North America and a strong advocate for the new performance frontier: Quality of Life. Ms. Williamson believes that multigenerational workforce communication is a key to driving better individual and organizational performance.