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Health chief urges big business to take greater responsibility for public health

02 Nov 2023 2 minute read
The Chief Medical Officer for Wales, Sir Frank Atherton, at Totally Welsh

The Chief Medical Officer for Wales, Sir Frank Atherton, has called on large companies to take greater corporate social responsibility for public health in his annual report.

The report, named ‘Shaping our Health’, focuses on the strategies and approaches used by businesses to promote products and choices that are detrimental to health including vaping, gambling, and ultra-processed food and drinks.

It says big industries can significantly influence our environment and our choices in varied and complex ways; from the sourcing and manufacturing of products to marketing methods.

Public health

The Chief Medical Officer’s annual report looks at the state of public health in Wales and makes recommendations to improve this.

Sir Frank Atherton said: “Wales already has a strong track record of leading the way on protecting the health of the public.

“However our Health and Social Care system is already under immense pressure. We need to employ all means to reduce the risk of unhealthy behaviours like smoking, poor diet, drug and alcohol use, gambling, and lack of physical activity.

“High use of such products is often less about individual ‘choices’ and more as a result of the strategies used by large companies who produce, market, distribute, or sell these products.”

The report also identifies climate change as being a major threat to public health.

Sir Frank called on businesses to recognise the impact they have on the climate crisis and asked for full transparency on all environmental claims amid global cases of greenwashing. He also commended businesses who are de-carbonising their operations.

Among these are Haverfordwest-based Totally Welsh, which delivers milk produced within a forty-mile radius of its bottling plant to local customers.

John Horsman, General Manager at Totally Welsh, said: “Recycling and reusing have always been at the heart of our company ethos. As well as reducing food miles by sourcing and selling locally, we also source sustainable packaging. This year we will start bottling our milk in glass in addition to the recyclable poly cartons.”

The Chief Medical Officer added: “There are many positive examples of businesses displaying corporate social responsibility in response to the global threat that is climate change.

“But my report also highlights a growing trend of companies deceiving consumers by marketing their products as more environmentally friendly than they are.”

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