Role Of Businesses And Industries In Promoting A Healthy Environment

The private and public sectors significantly influence health when their goals are incompatible with conditions that promote healthy behaviors or physical environments. When such goals are in conflict and significant health hazards arise, governmental agencies have a responsibility to act. Over the past 30 years, the U.S. government has passed numerous environmental laws and regulations to protect the health of the public (see Table 6-2). These laws have often been passed in response to industrial contami-

TABLE 6-2 Selected Environmental Legislation

Legislation

Purpose

Safe Drinking Water Act, 1974

Clean Air Act Amendments, 1977

Clean Water Act, 1977

Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (Superfund statute), 1980

Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, 1972, and Toxic Substances Control Act, 1976

Toxics Release Inventory, 1987, mandated by the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act of 1986

Passed to protect the public from waterborne diseases, chemicals, and heavy metals in drinking water

Established the regulatory structure and an enforceable timetable for reducing urban air pollution

Sought to make rivers and lakes safe for fishing and swimming

Passed in response to the contamination at Love Canal, New York and Times Beach, Missouri to protect communities from health dangers at hazardous waste disposal sites

Enacted to require analysis of chemicals to which the public might be exposed through food and other pathways

Enacted to inform citizens about toxic chemicals in the environment; it is also known as Title III of the Superfund amendments and is based on the premise that citizens have a right to know nation. In recent years, however, the roles of private-sector businesses and industry and of the public sector have become important in improving the environments of the communities in which they operate. Additionally, the private sector has formed partnerships with governmental agencies to help promote the health of the public.

One example is the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) Design for the Environment (DfE) program. Through voluntary partnerships with businesses, industries, and others (e.g., public interest groups, universities, and research institutions), EPA provides businesses and industry with information to make environmentally informed choices regarding their products, processes, and practices (EPA, 1998). According to EPA, the DfE program strives to promote the incorporation of environmental considerations into the traditional parameters of cost and performance on which businesses base their decisions.

Businesses and industries have come to realize that responsible entre-preneurship can play a major role in protecting human health by improving the environmental quality of the community through the efficient use of resources and the minimization of waste. Businesses and industries are developing techniques that reduce harmful environmental impacts. Some business and industry leaders are also fostering openness and dialogue with employees and the public and carry out environmental audits and assessments of their compliance with environmental laws and regulations. An example of a company initiative to improve community health is described in Box 6-7.

Thus, investing in community and environmental health not only is an example of corporate responsibility but also can provide economic returns to the business or industry. These programs succeed when there is a commitment from the leadership of the organization and, in many cases, when they are part of the business's mission and vision statements. Another example is provided in Box 6-8.

The food and beverage industry generates products that may contribute to disease and disability if consumers make choices potentially incompatible with good health. In light of the intensifying obesity epidemic in the United States, the industry has been asked to work in partnership with other sectors to help consumers in their efforts to make healthier lifestyle decisions that will promote health by reducing obesity. In October 2002, the Health and Human Services Secretary, Tommy Thompson, and the Agriculture Secretary, Anne Veneman, met with officials from the National Restaurant Association and the National Council of Chain Restaurants to begin a dialogue about how the food and beverage industries can help to reduce obesity. Potential strategies to be considered are delivering healthy food choices, providing easy-to-understand nutritional information, integrating healthiness into mass-marketing strategies, and offering an increased

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