3. Good Health and Well-Being

How business leadership can advance Goal 3 on Good Health and Well-Being

The world’s major health priorities include reproductive, maternal and child health; communicable, non-communicable and environmental diseases; universal health coverage; and access for all to safe, effective, quality, and affordable medicines and vaccines. Chronic non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and respiratory disease are now the leading causes of death and illness worldwide. They are projected to cost more than $30 trillion over the next two decades and push millions of people below the poverty line. Mental health disorders, malaria, HIV, TB, smoking, and road traffic deaths and injuries constrain global well-being, especially in developing countries, where 400 million people lack access to essential health services.

Businesses have a large impact on global health and well-being. A business’s own operations and supply chain can have direct negative impacts on health including through local pollution, disposal of hazardous waste, and health and safety standards on the work floor. The use of chemicals in the workplace can negatively impact workers’ health and make work particularly hazardous for children. According to the ILO, more than 2.3 million people die every year as a result of occupational accidents or work-related diseases in addition to 317 million on-the-job accidents. Annual worker related deaths in agricultural supply chains alone are reported at 170,000. Six per cent of all cancers are caused by occupational exposure to carcinogens. Business products and services can also impact on health: negatively as, for example, in the case of unhealthy foods, addictive substances, and defective products; and positively, for example through the development and provision of affordable medication and medical devices. Regardless of its industry or sector, business should recognize health in all its forms as a human right as defined by the World Health Organization, and it should to act accordingly. Business should also recognize the right to safe and healthy working conditions as set out in the International Covenant on Economic & Social Rights, taking steps to understand, monitor, and minimise negative health impacts throughout their end-to-end operations. As universal health coverage is often a public policy priority, businesses should ensure that their activities allow government to achieve its goals, including through responsible tax practices. Businesses that are directly involved in provision of health care and medication must ensure that their practices do not undermine access to healthcare and medicines for poor and vulnerable populations through inappropriate pricing, lobbying, intellectual property protection, or similar practices.

Leadership on Goal 3 can consist of building on core responsible business practices to understand, monitor, mitigate, and remediate negative impacts on health. Leading companies can leverage their expertise, resources, and knowledge, and their vital role in product, process, and business model innovation for the benefit of global health. Further, business, with the strength of its convening power, can take an active role in multi-stakeholder initiatives that encourage healthy behaviours and improve access to healthcare.

Leadership on Goal 3 can yield significant returns for businesses. Annual healthcare costs are currently $7 trillion and rising as the global population grows, a large share of the global population that was previously in relative poverty increases its income so that it can access quality healthcare, and diseases and unhealthy lifestyles are on the rise. Business can responsibly access and create new markets for their products associated with these trends, as well as change the way they do business at present, to advance Goal 3.

Goal 3 is deeply interconnected with other Goals. Improved health can, in turn, reduce poverty, increase educational attainment, create opportunities for finding decent work, and free up resources for boosting economic productivity and environmental protection. As such, health and wellbeing are at the heart of a virtuous cycle that contributes to delivery of the Global Goals. This also implies that a failure to deliver on Goal 3 hampers all other Goals, and vice versa. In the medium term, and without rapid progress on efficiency, the risk that improved health may lead to greater consumption and energy use in ways that will make all the other Goals harder to attain should be carefully managed.

Do your actions satisfy the Leadership Qualities?

Guiding Questions to apply to the Leadership Qualities to your business






  • Is your company committed to supporting the achievement of Goal 3? Have you developed a holistic strategy that reflects this commitment, covering end-to-end operation and the wider community?
  • Are you committed to learn from your actions and do you have processes in place to improve them accordingly?
  • Is your strategy supported by the highest levels of management, including the Board of Directors?

Key Considerations

Top-level commitment to advancement of global health and well-being, and a strategy for doing this that is observed throughout the company, is essential for long-term success in addressing Goal 3.

  • Do your actions achieve long-term outcomes that greatly exceed those resulting from current industry practice?
  • Are your actions aligned with what is needed to achieve Goal 3?

Key Considerations

Ambitious action on Goal 3 inspires others to take action, including in the value chain and the wider community. Given the multifaceted, complex nature of health challenges, leveraging a broad set of actions by different actors is critical for achievement of Goal 3.

  • Is support for Goal 3 embedded across all organizational functions?
  • Are staff and board incentives aligned with achieving Goal 3?

Key Considerations

All organizational functions should be aligned on advancing Goal 3, particularly if big changes to own operations and supply chain practices are required. This should include company-wide recognition that good health is multifaceted, including nutrition, mental health, and WASH.

  • Do you proactively look for opportunities to partner with Governments, UN agencies, suppliers, civil society organizations, industry peers and other stakeholders to inform how to advance Goal 3?

Key Considerations

The complex nature of health and well-being challenges required that companies broker partnerships and collaborations with relevant stakeholders wherever they can, so as to fully understand their impacts as well and target own action accordingly.

  • Do you publicly express your commitment to advance Goal 3?
  • Do you identify, monitor, and report on impacts, including potentially adverse impacts?
  • Do you mitigate risks associated with your action?
  • Do you remediate negative impacts associated with this action?
  • Do you engage stakeholders in a meaningful way?

Key Considerations

Accountability of private actors is of particular concern in the case of health due to the need to manage risks of negative impacts. Action on Goal 3 requires wide ranging and meaningful engagement with external stakeholders to fully understand potential impacts and manage these risks.

Business Actions


Ensure health of employees and communities


Develop products to improve health


Improve access to training

How taking action on Goal 3 is interconnected with other Goals

The Global Goals are inherently interconnected. Action taken toward one Goal can support or hinder the achievement of others. Identifying and addressing these interconnections will help business to build holistic and systemic solutions that amplify progress and minimize negative impacts. To help build a greater understanding, we have illustrated some of the ways in which the Goals connect. These are not exhaustive, and we encourage business to consider how they apply in their own operations.

Maximise likelihood of positive impact on:

Action to improve health outcomes can contribute to all of the Global Goals and in particular reducing poverty (Goal 1) and hunger (Goal 2); improving working conditions (Goal 8); and protecting the environment (Goals 14 and 15). Goal 3 will be furthered by ending hunger (Goal 2); improving access to clean water and sanitation (Goal 6); attaining gender equality (Goal 5), as women often bear primary responsibility for health in families; promoting decent work and economic growth (Goal 8); and expanding quality education (Goal 4) because people who are empowered, paid a living wage, nourished, educated, and live in safe environments are healthier.

Minimise risk of negative impact on:

Progress on Goal 3 will require reducing consumption of sugars, smoking tobacco, and alcohol, and therefore lead to economic adjustments in agriculture and food processing that could offset some economic growth (Goal 8) in the short run. Expanding access to healthcare services entails increased consumption of disposable products (to assure hygiene and safety) which could hinder progress on responsible consumption and production (Goal 12). There are also clear risks of negative impacts on Goal 3 associated with advancing other Goals: progress on economic growth (Goal 8) and zero hunger (Goal 2) can compromise health if they don’t consider the effect of toxic inputs or externalities – such as how use of antibiotics in animal feed leads to the emergence of anti-microbial drug resistance.

Goal 3 Targets

Targets of Goal 3

  1. By 2030, reduce the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births
  2. By 2030, end preventable deaths of newborns and children under 5 years of age, with all countries aiming to reduce neonatal mortality to at least as low as 12 per 1,000 live births and under-5 mortality to at least as low as 25 per 1,000 live births
  3. By 2030, end the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and neglected tropical diseases and combat hepatitis, water-borne diseases and other communicable diseases
  4. By 2030, reduce by one third premature mortality from non-communicable diseases through prevention and treatment and promote mental health and well-being
  5. Achieve universal health coverage, including financial risk protection, access to quality essential health-care services and access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all
  6. By 2030, substantially reduce the number of deaths and illnesses from hazardous chemicals and air, water and soil pollution and contamination