Fast Company seems to think so, at least according to a recent blog by Brian Jackson, who asserts that while almost every other sector has found a way to pursue CSR efforts, health care companies have failed, despite several opportunities to pursue sustainable options. But I’d suggest that the analysis put forward by Jackson is too cursory to support his ultimate conclusion that “the long-term viability of health care entities is at risk.”
Off-label drug marketing has given the pharmaceutical sector a reputational black eye (and hefty fines), but there is more to corporate responsibility than maintaining ethical sales and marketing practices, which is a challenge for nearly every industry. And it will take more than unethical sales and marketing practices to truly risk the long-term viability of this industry.
Two other challenges could present such risks, or at least transform the industry as we know it: patents and emerging markets. The incentive mechanism for research and development hinges on strong patent protections, and continued earnings growth depends on new business models that will meet the needs of nearly 3 billion people living in today’s emerging markets.
Ethical sales and marketing is no red herring—it is serious and a salient issue for pharmaceutical and medical device industries. But let’s ring the death knell for health care companies after they fail to address the health and wellness needs of the bottom 3 billion—this is single handedly the biggest CSR challenge they have to face.