Healthcare Working Group: Driving Change for over Two Decades

February 1, 2023
  • Cecile Oger portrait

    Cecile Oger

    Managing Director, People and Culture, BSR

  • Aude Ucla

    Former Associate Director, Consumer Sectors, BSR

  • Raluca Bumboiu portrait

    Raluca Bumboiu

    Manager, Transformation and Financial Services, BSR

Key Points

  • Since 1999, the Healthcare Working Group (HCWG) has partnered with over 25 major pharmaceutical companies to improve access to health globally through a sustainable and resilient healthcare sector.
  • The HCWG sparked change and helped an entire sector mature by being at the forefront of identifying emerging issues, taking a collective public position on access to healthcare, the most important ESG issue for the industry, and enabling progress through research, stakeholder engagement, practical tools, and peer sharing and learning.
  • Next, we look forward to exploring emerging issues with our healthcare members through membership engagement, events, and future collaborative initiatives.

In December 2022, we sunsetted (with pride!) the Healthcare Working Group (HCWG). As BSR’s longest-running collaborative initiative, over 23 years HCWG aimed to improve global health by creating a more sustainable healthcare industry and by empowering companies to maximize the scalability and impact of their response to societal issues.

We have helped an entire sector mature through knowledge sharing between members, identifying opportunities for collective action, and providing leading research on timely subjects from access to healthcare (since 2009), to pandemic preparedness (2017), antimicrobial resistance, the nexus of climate and health (2018), AI (2019), and bioethics (2022).

As we end this collaborative initiative, we reflect on lessons learned, how the healthcare industry is pursuing its sustainability journey, and how we contributed to systemic change for a more just and sustainable world.

"The Healthcare Working Group provided a practical way for companies, like Johnson & Johnson, to collaborate across sectors on impactful projects, while also allowing members to openly discuss concerns, identify opportunities, and share best practices. In addition to the expertise brought by BSR, the Working Group also hosted numerous external experts who provided updates on ESG and sustainability trends and insights, which we brought back and incorporated into our organization.”

- Kyle Peoples, Director, Enterprise ESG Program Office, Johnson & Johnson

Improving Global Health through a Sustainable and Resilient Sector

HCWG’s mission was to empower member companies to be more sustainable, and strive to achieve a more resilient industry.

We worked collectively to build our understanding of emerging ESG issues with an industry lens, from access to healthcare to climate change resilience and bioethics. Companies could openly share best practices and challenges. We engaged external stakeholders on a regular basis, either collectively during our meetings or via one-to-one interviews, and built on our work with other industries that were more advanced on certain issues, e.g., the tech industry and the use of AI.

In 2013, we took a collective public positioning with the Guiding Principles on Access to Healthcare (GPAH), an industry-led call for cross-sector collaboration to expand access to quality healthcare signed by the CEOs of 13 major pharmaceutical companies, including GSK, Johnson & Johnson, Novartis, Sanofi, Takeda.

Empowering Leaders to Build a More Resilient Industry

Over two decades, we empowered industry leaders, helping them understand ESG issues and stakeholders' perspectives and integrate these into business operations.

We developed guidance and tools on emerging industry issues. Here are a few examples of our contributions to advancing the sector:

  • Our 2016 Advancing Access to Healthcare Metrics report paved the way to improving the quality and comparability of metrics by increasing the focus on outcomes and by providing related guidance on monitoring and evaluation methodology.
  • In 2017, the Innovative Finance to Expand Access to Healthcare paper aimed to catalyze innovative finance partnerships that would unlock more financial resources.
  • The 2018 nexus between Climate and Health is still being referenced as helping companies understand their impact and building climate resilience.
  • More recently, the Access to Healthcare Leadership Ladder was developed to provide a maturity diagnostic and ambition-setting tool aimed at driving progress on access to healthcare.

“LEO Pharma piloted BSR´s Access to Leadership Ladder with the aim to measure and set targets for our maturity in providing access to health. This tool has provided valuable processes that highlight gaps, and has kickstarted organizational discussion of roles and responsibilities with a standard framework developed within the healthcare industry.”

- Klaus Legau, Executive Advisor, Global Stakeholder Engagements, LEO Pharma

Improved Maturity on ESG Issues

Over the years, we have seen increased maturity on several ESG issues. Access to healthcare is now embedded into operations, with dedicated access teams, programs and even business units. We also see appetite for deeper engagement on other issues, including sustainability reporting, human rights management, diversity and inclusion, and sustainable supply chains.

We are also observing how different segments of the industry are advancing their sustainability journey. While big pharma companies embraced sustainability years ago and dedicated important resources to this, medical devices companies have now built strong strategies and programs to address their priority issues. Contract manufacturing organizations and other healthcare service providers are also integrating sustainability in their operations to answer requests from customers, investors, and regulators. Investors’ scrutiny is also driving life science companies to identify their ESG priorities through materiality assessment, even at the pre-revenue stage.

Anticipating the Future of Healthcare and Upcoming ESG Priorities

Pandemics, climate change, conflicts, and antimicrobial resistance call for collaboration between public and private sectors as never before. Health equity is now a top priority across many segments of the industry, as COVID-19 increased the focus on equitable access to healthcare in both developed and developing countries.

We are also supporting our members to navigate emerging ethical issues and human rights management across the value chain. Finally, we see companies and stakeholders building closer connections between environmental and social topics—which can be illustrated by the recent landmark resolution that recognizes a clean, healthy environment as a universal human right.

We thank the Healthcare Working Group members, both companies and individuals, for their drive, insight, and dedication over the past two decades—we are proud of what we achieved together.

We look forward to exploring new emerging issues with our healthcare members through other avenues: our membership engagement, events, and other collaborative initiatives.

Let’s talk about how BSR can help you to transform your business and achieve your sustainability goals.

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