Truck exhaust
(Photo credit: Jeff Kubina / Flickr)

Many companies carefully consider how their products affect human health and work to ensure that what they make is safe.

But Deborah Gallagher of Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment says companies often do not consider how their environmental impacts can undermine those efforts.

For example, pharmaceutical companies make products that are designed to make people healthier. But she says these same companies often use distribution methods that create a tremendous amount of greenhouse gas emissions, along with other air pollutants that can cause or worsen respiratory disease.

Gallagher led a study for the UN Global Compact about how companies’ policies and actions affect the environment and people’s health, and what they are doing to address these intertwined issues.

“There were very few companies that we interviewed that had any sort of strategy for jointly looking at environment and health impacts,” she says. “They have not tended to look at their impacts on air – for example, greenhouse gases – as having a direct effect on people.”

So she’s encouraging more companies to focus on how their environmental impacts in turn affect human health and take steps to improve both at the same time.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.