In late 2018 the United States, Canada, and Mexico signed a new trade agreement, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA, to replace the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Although not yet ratified, the agreement is widely seen as indicative of how the US will engage in future international trade negotiations.
An institute whose experts have occupied key positions on European Union and United Nations regulatory panels is, in fact, reports The Guardian, an industry lobby group that masquerades as a scientific health charity. The revelations, based on a review of more than 17,000 documents released under U.S. freedom of information laws, appear in a new article in Globalization and Health. Sarah Steele, the lead author and a researcher at Cambridge University said: “Our findings add to the evidence that this nonprofit organization has been used by its corporate backers for years to counter public health policies. ILSI should be regarded as an industry group—a private body and regulated as such, not as a body acting for the greater good.” Among the companies that support ILSI are Coca Cola and Monsanto.
An Art Deco McDonald’s in Clifton Hill, Victoria, Australia. Credit.
The practices of transnational corporations affect population health through production methods, shaping social determinants of health, or influencing the regulatory structures governing their activities. There has been limited research on community exposures to TNC policies and practices. Our pilot research used McDonald’s Australia to test methods for assessing the health impacts of one TNC within Australia. We adapted existing Health Impact Assessment methods to assess McDonald’s activities. We identified both positive and detrimental aspects of McDonald’s Australian operations across the scope of the HIA framework. We found that McDonald’s outlets were slightly more likely to be located in areas of lower socioeconomic status. McDonald’s workplace conditions were found to be more favourable than those in many other countries which reflects compliance with Australian employment regulations. The breadth of findings revealed the need for governments to strengthen regulatory mechanisms that are conducive to health; the opportunity for McDonald’s to augment their corporate social responsibility initiatives and bolster reputational endorsement; and civil society actors to inform their advocacy towards health and equity outcomes from TNC operations. Our study indicates that undertaking a corporate health impact assessment is possible, with the different methods revealing sufficient information to realise that strong regulatory frameworks are need to help to avoid or to mediate negative health impacts.
Citation: Anaf J, Baum FE, Fisher M, Harris E, Friel S. Assessing the health impact of transnational corporations: a case study on McDonald’s Australia. Globalization and Health 2017;13: 7.
The adverse health and equity impacts of transnational corporations’ (TNCs) practices have become central public health concerns as TNCs increasingly dominate global trade and investment and shape national economies. Despite this, methodologies have been lacking with which to study the health equity impacts of individual corporations and thus to inform actions to mitigate or reverse negative and increase positive impacts. A new report in Globalization and Health describes a framework designed to conduct corporate health impact assessment (CHIA), that was developed at a meeting held at the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center in May 2015.