Adverse Health Impacts from Products and/or Services

Sarah Simon

11 min Read Time | September 16th 2021

Key Takeaways

1

The topic deals with the negative effects consumers and others encounter because of a company’s products and/or services offered.

2

The core focus should be on how the product or service is threatening or destroying one’s health and well-being, and ultimately lowering their life-expectancy.

3

This topic covers the negative & direct impact only in relation to the company's products and/or services offered.

What is it?

Adverse Health Impacts is defined as “the causation, promotion, facilitation and/or exacerbation of a structural and/or functional abnormality, with the implication that the abnormality produced has the potential of lowering the quality of life, contributing to a disabling illness, or leading to a premature death.

The above is intrinsically connected to one’s healthy and dignified standard of living. Companies, in this aspect, can negatively bring about externalities that impair their customers' health and well-being.

Products or services made available for consumer use vary from all ranges: food ingested, products absorbed by our bodies after application on the skin, technological devices on our persons or in our homes, software used, medicines ingested, etc. All can present important safety hazards. Products used and/or consumed are linked to almost half of all emergency department visits each year.

Sources

This research-based article offers more information on the topic of harmful products.

The Guardian’s article “Explained: the toxic threat in everyday products, from toys to plastic” provides a specific analysis of the chemicals found in customer products.

Find out more about adverse health effects here.

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Impact assessment

Companies, across a wide array of industries, offer products and/or services that are detrimental to users' health.

In your analysis, start by describing the product(s): the what, how much, and the who, following the IMP framework.

Then describe the impact by linking studies on this product and its widespread impact, comparing with competitors or the industry average, when relevant. You must mention the direct effect of the product and how significant it is. You can also use studies as proxies.

Learn more in the article Step 5: Assess scale and value.

A specific issue, yet a relevant one, is treating a single angle. For example, household products may be toxic to human health and biodiversity. In this scenario, it is essential to stick to one specific angle on this topic: the adverse social effects. To learn more about granularity, check out this article.


Below you will find more industry-specific information on the topic.

Tobacco companies negatively impact customers' health due to the consumption of tobacco products that include but are not limited to the risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), including emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

It also includes the adverse health effects from second-hand smoke.

The analysis should discuss:

  • What health issues arise from the consumption of all the products offered

  • What type of products are sold by the company (cigarettes, e-cigarettes, cigars, and others)

  • How the products are considered to harm the health of those directly consuming and also indirectly consuming the products and (second-hand smoke, for example)

  • How many people does this concern? Split between direct and indirect



Non-Alcoholic Beverages companies can negatively impact their consumers' health through the products they sell. Key nutritional and health concerns such as obesity, ingredient safety, nutritional content, and acute health impacts resulting from the consumption of non-alcoholic beverages are shaping the industry's landscape. Studies indicate that consuming high-calorie or sweetened beverages can have adverse health consequences, including higher cholesterol levels, increased risk for heart disease, and obesity.

The analysis should discuss:

  • What health issues arise from the consumption of the beverages offered by the company

  • Whether the ingredients that make up the drinks/other products exceed the recommended daily intake?

  • Why and how the products are considered unhealthy

  • How many people consume these non-alcoholic beverages or other products (scale)

  • How likely are the health issues going to remain (persistence)

  • How grave is the health issues (depth)

  • A comparison to the industry average or to close competitors (with the same products)



The Software & IT, Media & Entertainment, Hardware, and other similar industries result in comparable adverse health impacts from (over)consumption of the products. Customer health concerns may arise in the form of gaming disorders, screen addictions, and others, resulting in hostility and aggression, mental trauma, stress, and other health and behavioural issues.

This could occur from consuming the product/service above the recommended amount or based on external factors, like one's mental state, fragility, well-being, to name a few.

The analysis should discuss:

  • How many people use these products and/or services and the company's market share

  • The number of people suffering from any adverse effects (scale)

  • What the recommended daily use is versus the actual consumption using reports, proxies, and/or external studies

  • What mental, behavioural, physical, and other issues may arise or have occurred

  • If the health issues are likely to remain (persistence)

  • If the health issues are grave (depth)



Biotechnology & Pharmaceutical companies can directly cause adverse health impacts from drugs, treatments, and other medicines. Negative health impacts can arise from products and services offered that have safety concerns or malfunctions.

The analysis should discuss:

  • Exhaustive analysis of all products/services offered that caused unexpected and significant health and safety issues to its users

  • The number of people suffering from any adverse effects (scale)

  • If the health issues are grave and long-lasting (depth and persistence)


Caution: the analysis should not discuss expected side effects.

To provide added value, the analysis can discuss whether there were controlled clinical trials and regulatory approval. If not, this is where product safety concerns, manufacturing defects, or inadequate disclosure of product-related risks can surface.


Warning: No matter the industry, the analysis should not discuss positive health impacts, product recalls, or any one-off events relating to allergic reactions or others.


To describe the scale of the impact, taking 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

  • How long would the impact described last for? Months? Years? Decades?

  • How reversible is the impact described in the impact analysis? Can it be easily stopped/extended?


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.

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