How business leadership can advance Goal 3 on Good Health and Well-Being
The world’s major health priorities include reproductive, maternal and child health; communicable, non-communicable and environmental diseases; universal health coverage; and access for all to safe, effective, quality, and affordable medicines and vaccines. Chronic non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and respiratory disease are now the leading causes of death and illness worldwide. They are projected to cost more than $30 trillion over the next two decades and push millions of people below the poverty line. Mental health disorders, malaria, HIV, TB, smoking, and road traffic deaths and injuries constrain global wellbeing, especially in developing countries, where 400 million people lack access to essential health services.
Businesses have a large impact on global health and wellbeing. A business’s own operations and supply chain can have direct negative impacts on health including through local pollution, disposal of hazardous waste, and health and safety standards on the work floor. The use of chemicals in the workplace can negatively impact workers’ health and make work particularly hazardous for children. According to the ILO, more than 2.3 million people die every year as a result of occupational accidents or work-related diseases in addition to 317 million on-the-job accidents. Annual worker related deaths in agricultural supply chains alone are reported at 170,000. Six per cent of all cancers are caused by occupational exposure to carcinogens. Business products and services can also impact on health: negatively as, for example, in the case of unhealthy foods, addictive substances, and defective products; and positively, for example through the development and provision of affordable medication and medical devices. Regardless of its industry or sector, business should recognize health in all its forms as a human right as defined by the World Health Organization, and it should to act accordingly. Business should also recognize the right to safe and healthy working conditions as set out in the International Covenant on Economic & Social Rights, taking steps to understand, monitor, and minimise negative health impacts throughout their end-to-end operations. As universal health coverage is often a public policy priority, businesses should ensure that their activities allow government to achieve its goals, including through responsible tax practices. Businesses that are directly involved in provision of health care and medication must ensure that their practices do not undermine access to healthcare and medicines for poor and vulnerable populations through inappropriate pricing, lobbying, intellectual property protection, or similar practices.