Companies, across a wide array of industries, offer products and/or services that are detrimental to users' health. To treat the topic correctly, you would need to identify the end-product(s), assess what components make up the product(s), and if they have been known to cause health issues.
Discuss how the products/services discussed in the core of the analysis can have adverse health impacts on the consumers/end-users
Include qualitative/quantitative information to be able to assess the scale of the company’s impact
When discussing certain products, it should be supplemented with context as to why we are looking at this specific product - i.e. it being a flagship or popular product.
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.
Caution: It is important to make the distinction between the adverse health impacts of direct exposure to components and health issues during the manufacturing phase. It is important to focus on the impacts when end-users are exposed to the final product/service instead of on the employees who work with the products, which would fall under the topic of 'Workforce Health & Safety.'
If there are no adverse health impacts on the end-users, it does not work. Ways to find out if there are impacts from the final products are to:
- Look at if certain products were banned in places or have harmed people on day-to-day.
- Are they regulated by OSHA?
- Under which conditions do the components cause health issues, for instance, if toxic fumes are emitted when exposed to higher temperatures (make sure it is a direct impact).
- Persistence: consider how long-term the product or service is used. For instance, websites for researching trips or buying cars are used in the short term, and therefore the case of getting addicted is very weak. It can create some unhealthy habits to a certain extent, but the service provided is much more useful than just social media.
- If there is streaming, content provided, or instant gratification provided, then a case can be made.
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
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.
Below you will find more industry/sector-specific information on the topic.