How Global Healthcare Firms Are Finding New Ways to Create Shared Value

FSG's Mark Kramer on The Guardian Sustainable Business Blog
Oct 3, 2011 5:00 PM ET

The Sustainable Business Blog

How global healthcare firms are finding new ways to create shared value

By Mark Kramer, Founder and Managing Director, FSG

Global corporations are increasingly finding ways to create shared value – pursuing business initiatives that improve social and environmental conditions while earning the company a profit and conferring a competitive advantage. Consider, for example, the recent remarkable developments in global health.

For only the second time in history, the UN held a high-level meeting on health issues. Unlike last year's meeting on HIV/AIDS, this meeting is on the deceptively mundane category of non-communicable diseases: heart disease, cancer, diabetes and respiratory illness.

Surprisingly, non-communicable diseases are now responsible for more deaths worldwide than all other causes of death combined. Once the affliction of wealthy nations, these egalitarian diseases have now embraced poverty, where lack of a good diet, basic education and adequate healthcare has greatly magnified their devastating impact. As a result, non-communicable diseases have spread rapidly through the developing world and are now the leading causes of death on every continent except Africa.

What is strikingly different about the UN meeting, however, is the role that many healthcare companies have chosen to play. In the past, many companies stonewalled responsibility for the fate of poor populations that are unable to pay for the medicines and medical devices that were designed and priced for US and European markets. This year however, many companies have embraced the business opportunity of serving low income populations with specialised products, new distribution models and affordable the full blog post on The Guardian Sustainable Business Pages.