The last Prosperity Blog post on Global Health Nexus talked about why supporting global health in our region might appeal to economic development folks and average citizens. But what about corporations and other large businesses in our region…why should they care about supporting global health? As it turns out, there’s plenty of good reasons.
More specifically, there are reasons for both life sciences companies and non-life sciences companies. You’d think the former would be pretty straightforward – more customers – but then of course you realize that most of these new customers can’t exactly pay top dollar for their health care. So, the incentive often comes more on the branding side, raising the positive profile of those companies that make an effort to use their work to help those in need. I particularly like this Bill Gates quote: “When I talk to executives from pharmaceutical companies, they tell me that they want to do more for neglected diseases but they at least need to get credit for it.” Fair enough. And, as the Seattle Times points out, there are direct company benefits beyond a general good feeling:
One way companies may seek to use the ratings for their advantage is in recruiting. News that UK-based GSK had achieved the top ranking in research geared toward needs of developing countries has already been posted on a pharmaceutical job site.
However, I don’t want to totally discount the new customer side as well. We all know that large corporations face extreme pressure to continue to increase profits each year, and there is only so much market penetration you can get in developed countries. Finding a way to tap into those markets (which may be developing now, but will be developed in the future) is an important long-term investment. And what better way to tap those markets than to partner with a global health organization that already has existing relationships and distribution networks. As Chris Rivera of the WBBA pointed out, “For a for-profit private biotech company, the fastest emerging markets are the developing nations…We have to figure out how to partner with the organizations that already understand these markets.”
This issue of emerging markets can be even more important for the non-life sciences companies. There are plenty of people in developing countries that don’t have access to quality health care, but do own a cell phone or drink soda or wear soccer gear. High profile support of global health activities can be a great way to get some positive marketing and differentiate from the competition, with the added benefit of being able to tout your corporate social responsibility back home (which can help with recruiting high demand employees and attracting socially conscious investors).
So what’s in it for global health organizations to partner with corporations? Certainly money, distribution networks and pro-bono services (Boeing, for example, loads up its planes with supplies and flies them to the developing world). But also investment in the development of new goods and services that can be mutually beneficial. For example, there are global health products that can be commercialized into the for-profit market, meaning better mass production for people in need and access to more effective treatments for all.
Global Health Nexus, as its name suggest, can be incredibly valuable in serving as bridge to connect needs with opportunities between corporations and global health organizations. Certainly through the big 2012 event and the webcasting of smaller events, but also through old fashioned brokering of relationships. By getting everyone around the table to discuss their interests, Nexus will facilitate the kinds of mutually beneficial discussions that need to happen to improve the health of the world’s most vulnerable citizens…and help large companies create jobs, too.