What Are Global Health Footprint Labels?

Business decisions are major determinants of population health. Companies boost global health when they donate to pressing global health causes and produce medications that address the greatest disease burdens. Health suffers when companies pollute, produce unhealthy consumables, block the production of generics, and lobby against important safety regulations. Though some companies (and their executives and shareholders) already want to facilitate global health, clearly more would do so if the effects of their business decisions on global health affected their bottom line more. Could some kind of rating, certification or accreditation (for short, “labeling”) forge that feedback loop?

Good labeling for what we shall call companies’ “global health footprint” would do just that. Accreditors would rigorously assess companies’ overall impact on human health, including the health of the world’s poorest and sickest populations. The labels they create would then disseminate this information in ways that users could readily understand and act upon.

Health footprint labels signal to ethically-minded corporate executives, board members, investors, business partners, workers, consumers, and regulators which companies are contributing significantly (or measurably) to the advancement of health and how these companies perform relative to their similarly evaluated peers.

Organizations as different as the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), the International Standards Organization (ISO), Fair trade organizations, the UL product-safety rating, the Joint Commission (JCo and JCI), GoodGuide, the University Global Health Impact Report Card, the Forest Stewardship Council, the Kimberley Process, Equitable Origin (EO), and GiveWell each display scattered aspects of such a labeling system. The success of some of these organizations indicates the potential impact of labeling companies for their global health footprint.

Harvard Medical School - Companies' Global Health Footprint