Mark Little, Director, Health Care, BSR

In its 2012 Corporate Responsibility Report, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) released its vision for the future and a clear roadmap for measuring success. The report is groundbreaking for its up-front declaration of more than 20 key commitments, which are specific, measurable, and time bound. BSR’s health care team worked closely with GSK to ensure that the goals were informed by rigorous and comprehensive stakeholder engagement. And from the very beginning, the commitments were driven by a vision that the company should drive value across its core business—vaccines, innovative pharmaceuticals, generic medicines, and consumer products. These are not CSR goals as much as they are calls to action for all teams at GSK to work together to deliver on these bold promises for a better future. 

I encourage you to read through all of the goals, but the one I will focus on here is GSK’s commitment to children’s health, which supports the UN Millennium Development Goal (MDG 4) to reduce child mortality by two-thirds by 2015. While significant progress has been made—childhood deaths are down nearly 50 percent since 1990—child mortality remains a scourge in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, where an estimated 15,000 children die every day, the majority from preventable diseases.

Stepping up to this challenge, and recognizing that six of the world’s 10 regions are not on pace to meet MDG 4 by 2015, GSK presents a clear commitment to working with others in accelerating progress for 2015 and beyond. The commitment is broad—“continue to invest in innovative cross-sector partnerships to reduce child mortality”—but accompanied by a promise to communicate progress in more details in their 2013 report. 

In a field awash with charity, the persistence of high child mortality suggests the need to join philanthropic efforts with resources and capabilities from other sectors. GSK’s call for cross-sector partnerships acknowledges this need. And BSR’s research on global health partnerships suggests an opportunity to go one step further by developing multicompany partnerships: business tying up with business. It is rare to see companies coming together to address global health challenges, but there’s hope that GSK’s commitment will encourage not only increased collaboration with other sectors but with other companies too (including pharma). The challenges are too large to tackle alone, and the rewards should be large enough to share.