The air pollutants emitted by a single company are relatively small when comparing the volume to industrial, national, and global amounts, even if it is a major polluter such as an Oil & Gas or Mining company.
Because air pollution occurs from all sorts of activities worldwide, which cannot be pinpointed to a specific activity or location, pollutants spread and suspend in the air - affecting everyone. This causes adverse health effects, especially when exposed to it for prolonged periods of time.
As companies’ air pollutant emissions are regulated by governments that require mandatory reporting, many companies disclose their air pollutant emissions in their annual CSR/Sustainability report.
When analysing the emissions of a company’s air pollutants, you should report the yearly, absolute quantity of pollutants emitted per category.
After reporting the company’s overall air pollutants and the scale of the impact, you should benchmark these emissions. This will further help readers assess the scale and value of the impact. How significant are the emissions?
Build a strong introduction by making it clear that the emitted pollutants are responsible for deteriorating the air quality and, that even short-term exposure to some of these pollutants can lead to health issues, backed with quantitative data.
Use studies in your introduction to state the impact of these pollutants on human health and explain why it is an issue in the company's industry. Please include impact data for the global/regional scale.
As various symptoms can be triggered by air pollution, in which the blame cannot be attributed to a singular company, it is important to disclose the scale and the value of the impact in the introduction.
You can include the impacts of air pollution specific to the place the company is operating in, if available.
Amount of pollutants emitted by the company from operations and product use
Please make sure to include tonnes of specific air pollutants as well as the sum of all pollutants emitted.
Information on air quality in the place where the company mostly operates
Adverse health impacts in the area are attributed to air pollution when direct data is available. Information on air safety levels is also welcomed.
We will not accept analyses that only disclose the amounts of pollutants released (e.g., SOx, NOx, PM, etc.) without adding any other information that helps the reader rate the impact scale.
It should discuss:
How many pollutants are emitted by the company? This includes operations and product use (i.e., automobile factories and driving vehicles).
How many pollutants should a person be exposed to suffer from health consequences? We accept direct impact only to help measure the scale and substantiate the claim. Do not make estimations on the number of illnesses or deaths caused as this would lead to defamation.
If this information is unavailable, benchmark the emissions to the industry standard to assess if the emissions are below, inline, or above the industry average.
Are the emissions dissipated or concentrated, like in urban areas or pollution 'hot spots'? Has it had a direct impact on people?
Or do you know of any thresholds (that may be industry-specific)?
Compare the company's emissions with the industry average.
Including, as a secondary point, whether the company is investing in technologies to control/monitor the emission of these pollutants.
To publish the analysis, it must build a strong case for the issue and be as robust as possible. To do this, please:
- Try to find the direct impact:
- Has the company been fined by the authorities?
- Have they violated any regulations (such as the Clean Air Act)?
- Are there direct links to the number of people harmed by air pollution?
- Using external studies, correlate the areas where the company has factories/operations with rising health issues in surrounding communities.
The OECD stats website is a helpful start.
- Take it a step further: are the emissions dissipated or concentrated, like in urban areas or pollution 'hot spots'? Has it had a direct impact on people?
- You can use air pollution heat maps and/or other methods to make these extrapolations.
- This is relevant for the US, so if analysts can find this for other countries, then we can correlate the areas of factories/operations to those areas to find a direct impact.
- This other source is really good for the US, and also one for the world per country. Keep in mind that this data is very dynamic, so be sure to be nuanced.
You can check if it is located in an air pollution hotspot, globally, or in the US.
The Air Quality Index (AQI) value is a measure of any given location's air pollution level. AQI value below 50 represents good air quality, but higher AQI values increase health risks.
Rather than writing vague analyses that only state how many pollutants have been emitted and finding some comparisons, there needs to be more direct impact data and should be more linked to adverse health impacts (not stating that such an amount of people could potentially be affected).
You should focus on specific events that have been shown to affect people, like reporting on authorities that have fined companies for violating the clean air act or other examples.
What we would find even more interesting is knowing whether communities around the companies' operations, such as factories, have contracted illnesses - respiratory or other.
Pollutants like methane (CH4) and carbon monoxide (CO), are linked to some health conditions, but only in certain circumstances.
This relates to the topic of Accidents/Workforce Health & Safety (and should not be treated under this topic). For example, an analysis can be accepted if there was an event where people/communities were exposed to a high level of concentration (like in closed doors) of such pollutants enduring significant adverse health effects. Groups are negatively affected when exposed to high concentrations indoors, but these same pollutants will not cause significant adverse health effects when released into the atmosphere.
In the conclusion, include the absolute amount of pollutants emitted by the company.
Make it clear when it is an estimation.
“Company A emitted an estimated total of 10 Mn t of air pollutants, contributing to air pollution deaths in London.”
Caution - Common Mistakes:
You should not only treat the operational emissions but also the pollutants from the fleet.
If the direct data is unavailable to determine the number of people's health that has deteriorated from the company's pollutants, please do not include an estimation about the number of deaths/health issues the company may be responsible for, as being inaccurate.
We also prefer not to include comparisons with the country's or industry’s total emissions since it will probably render a very low percentage (0.00000x%) and, thus, mislead the readers into thinking that the impact is insignificant. It is better to compare it to the industry average, assessing whether the company is below, in line, or above the industry average.
You can mention if the pollutants have increased or decreased over the years in a single statistic (% change). However, avoid comparing the company's year-on-year release of air pollutants, leading to writing about remediation measures. Always remember to give the broader impact first.
To describe the scale of the impact, take into account:
1/ The breadth of the impact
Is the impact local, national, or global?
How many people are concerned? Thousands? Millions? Billions?
2/ The depth of the impact
Is the life of people concerned deeply affected, or does the issue just marginally impact them?
Are the changes brought by the issue profoundly changing society or the planet?
3/ The persistence of the impact
In your analysis, make sure you add value to your readers and go beyond the company’s CSR report by not merely reporting data from the company’s report but going the extra mile of providing additional metrics, studies, and sources to make your analysis robust and the impact value and scale are clear.