Improving the Quality of Chronic Disease Care in China
Corporate citizenship is in the midst of a promising evolution. To address key societal needs, more companies are moving from a narrow view of philanthropy to a strategy that sets business goals to achieve positive social outcomes.
Over the past century, corporate philanthropy has been defined largely by giving—that is, the donation of goods and services, typically through a foundation that is separate from the company’s core business. But in recent years, an exciting new model has emerged, one that merges societal needs and business operations with purpose.
Shared value effectively fuses philanthropy with for-profit business or competitiveness, surfacing new opportunities by understanding the social issues that impact the business—or that business is equipped to better address. Creating broad-based social good that is sustainable becomes a core part of a company’s mission.
Take, for example, Vodafone. Back in 2007, the British mobile phone company teamed up with the Kenyan telecommunications firm Safaricom to create a mobile-money platform. Smartphone owners could use an app to save and transfer money. This technology was intended to address a very specific social need: the vast majority of people Safaricom’s markets don’t have bank accounts. They’re effectively cut off from global commerce.
Vodafone’s mobile platform has proven extremely popular. Some 17 million people in East Africa, Eastern Europe, and India use it—and nearly half of Kenya’s GDP runs through this platform.
What’s more, the initiative also boosted Vodafone’s bottom line. Over the last half decade, less than 0.1 percent of Kenya’s mobile phone users have dropped the company. That’s an extraordinary degree of customer loyalty.
This trend towards deeper, smarter engagement that meaningfully connects social impact with a company’s core mission is encouraging. We’re seeing shared value crop up more and more across the world. Fortune recently pioneered its “Change The World” list, based on shared value, to highlight and rank companies that are doing well by doing good.
I’m proud to say that my company, Eli Lilly and Company, has also joined the shared value movement to make quality healthcare more accessible for people throughout the world.
For example in 2011, we created the Lilly NCD Partnership to address the growing threat of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes. We partner with local organizations in communities ill-equipped to handle these diseases. Specifically, we work in low- and middle-income countries to strengthen their health systems by developing new community-based models of diabetes care that increase treatment access and improve peoples’ long-term health.
This month, we’re announcing a new initiative in China called LEAP, short for “Lilly Expanding Access for People,” with a focus on improving diabetes care in smaller communities and townships. China has the world’s largest diabetes population—and LEAP represents our most ambitious effort to date to lead with a shared value approach.
LEAP supports the Chinese government’s aim of increasing the quality of chronic disease care by addressing a specific and critical societal gap: limited high quality community-based diabetes care. Societal value is created by investing in local diabetes care partners with deep diabetes knowledge and familiarity with local cultural nuances to facilitate training for community-based physicians. And we’re also building broader awareness by working with people directly to manage their diabetes through education and targeted communications.
The “shared” part of shared value comes from simultaneously helping people with diabetes today and responsibly creating a more favorable landscape for businesses like ours in the years ahead.
Incorporating shared value into core business strategy isn’t easy—breaking with tradition never is. But when it comes to solving the most complex socioeconomic challenges we face as a global society, we can’t evolve quickly enough. Investors increasingly look to companies for innovative thinking in the approach to social issues, and customers rightly expect it. Shared value can help generate lasting value for all.