The healthcare sector is ripe for radical innovation, and the pharmaceutical industry can lead the way if it rethinks its way of engaging with stakeholders. Success depends on three factors: operating according to a new, broader business principle, fostering partnerships and taking on a greater social responsibility. The pharmaceutical industry can rebuild society’s trust if it begins to see corporate responsibility as an opportunity for innovation and not simply as a form of risk management. That is the argument which Professor Lise Kingo will put forward on Wednesday 28 June, in a speech to mark her appointment as Endowed Professor of Sustainability and Innovation in Health and Life Sciences-Based Companies in the Faculty of Medicine and the Faculty of Earth and Life Sciences at VU Amsterdam.
Lise Kingo is a member of the executive management of the Danish healthcare company Novo Nordisk. In her speech, entitled "Corporate responsibility as a driver of innovation in healthcare", she calls upon her own industry to respond to social change and to take public criticism seriously. The industry’s future is at stake: it is criticized for lack of innovation, high costs and for neglecting real needs, in particular the need to combat diseases in developing countries. Its business practices are under scrutiny for lack of transparency, and stakeholders want to see evidence of ethical conduct in everything from clinical trials and animal experimentation to marketing and sales.
According to Lise Kingo, this situation highlights the need for a new and broader business model for the pharmaceutical industry. In fact, she argues, it is high time to rethink how we look at business design for the healthcare sector as a whole. For the industry to be sustainable, it needs to understand its role and responsibility in society, to learn with its stakeholders (including patients’ associations, doctors, insurers and NGOs), and to think beyond its own short-term interests.
Lise Kingo highlights signs of positive change that might help win back public confidence and renew the industry’s long-term business prospects. Many pharmaceutical companies embrace corporate responsibility and report on it. Several large pharmaceutical companies are now listed in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index. Novo Nordisk heads the list of firms in the healthcare sector. Kingo has been the driving force behind the company’s strategic approach to corporate responsibility, and in her speech she uses this to illustrate how and why corporate responsibility can be part of core business.
The healthcare challenges are illustrated by the need for improved diabetes care, which is the focus for Novo Nordisk. Prevention, early diagnosis and effective treatment not only improve the health of diabetes patients, but also help alleviate the increasing burden on the healthcare system and society as a whole caused by the epidemic growth in this disease. Examples from Novo Nordisk’s business approach in the Netherlands and its long-standing collaboration with VU Amsterdam show how better results can be achieved in practice by successful collaboration and new models of engagement.
As part of Kingo’s chair at VU Amsterdam, a research programme will further explore such opportunities for innovation in the healthcare sector. It will also seek to identify how corporate responsibility can be a driver for change in a range of business sectors.
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