The Challenge

Climate change poses a real and urgent threat to our society and economy. with potentially devastating acute and chronic impacts on human health. 

Severe floods, heat stress or drought can have immediate and severe impacts on health. Gradual rises in temperature can have longer term impacts, exacerbating both non-communicable and infectious diseases. Climate change also impacts mental health, whether as a result of the trauma of living through severe weather disasters, or more widely, suffering so-called ‘eco-anxiety’. 

Many of the drivers of climate change are also health issues in their own right. Air pollution from fossil-fuel power plants, transport and industry kills and debilitates millions each year, while forest destruction damages water supplies and increases the risk of infectious diseases.

People cannot thrive on a dying planet. Without healthy planetary systems, such as ample fresh water, clean air, and reliable weather, we cannot have healthy humans. We have to see – and act on – climate and health as part of a single system. 

Business has a key role to play in doing so. And yet, there has to date been a lack of practical guidance for businesses on how to tackle these twin challenges by creating strategies that deliver co-benefits. 

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Our solution 

To overcome this barrier, Forum for the Future, in collaboration with BUPA, GSK Consumer Healthcare and Walgreens Boots Alliance, has published Driving Co-benefits for Climate and Health: How private sector action can accelerate progress” . It includes a series of recommendations for business as a whole, with specific guidance for four high-impact sectors, and public policy advocacy to governments.

The report recommends that:

  • All businesses should take actions relating to direct operations, employees, products and services and supply chains: switching power supplies to renewable energy or logistics to electric vehicles; investing in green buildings and staff wellbeing, promoting active travel and plant-based foods; investing in supply chain resilience; engaging consumers through climate/health-positive services, advice or information; making the case for change to governments and industry bodies; and leveraging the potential of cross-sector collaboration.
  • The food sector should drive demand for healthier, plant-based diets; shift product portfolios accordingly; and support suppliers to shift to regenerative farming.
  • The building and infrastructure sector should innovate building design and retrofits, invest in infrastructure that maximises climate and health benefits and incorporate biodiversity ‘net gain’ principles into new developments.
  • The healthcare sector should explore precision medicine, AI analytics and digital delivery methods to cut carbon footprint and improve health outcomes.
  • The finance sector should apply a climate lens to all healthcare[1] [2]  investments and advocate for economic metrics based on wellbeing.

The guidance also highlights the importance of public policy advocacy. Private sector organisations should call on government to work with them to: promote public awareness of practical lifestyle choices that deliver co-benefits; provide the right incentives and financing; design policies that drive systemic change; develop carbon trading mechanisms and measure social value. 

In adopting the recommendations put forward, businesses and governments can ensure that each action they take towards Net Zero drives maximum impact - in all cases for health, and in many cases for health and nature. Only joined-up thinking and catalytic action will enable the deep transformation needed to stay below 1.5°C and deliver a just and regenerative future for all.

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Get in touch 

To learn more and explore how your organisation can drive co-benefits for climate and health, please contact [email protected]

Who’s involved 

 

The guidance in this document has been developed from a series of roundtable discussions during 2020-2021 led by Forum for the Future and Walgreens Boots Alliance with support from GSK Consumer Healthcare and Bupa. These brought together businesses, NGOs, scientists, philanthropists and government advisors from across Europe and the US. The roundtables focused on three topics where climate and health issues come starkly together: air pollution, malaria and nutrition. This report and the roundtables build on an original Business Leadership Brief exploring the links between climate and health led by the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC), involving both Forum for the Future and Walgreens Boots Alliance, and a more recent narrative update from the UNGC.

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