In a wide-ranging interview with The Guardian, GSK CEO Andrew Witty tells the interviewer while discussing big companies and their role in society,
"That's one of the great mis-steps of business over the last 20 years. They've allowed it to be perceived that it's all about money. It shouldn't be about that… We want to make a return, yes – we're not a charity. We want to make a good return for our shareholders. But we're going to do it by being in step with society."
The article credits Witty with beginning some chnages at GSK - including an end to obsessing about "white pills for western markets", claiming that the era of "bankable blockbusters" was over. GSK's future lies in emerging markets and in developing vaccines; the company is the world's largest vaccine supplier with a 29% market share, and results from a potentially ground-breaking malaria prophylactic are due later this year.
"The minute a market begins to emerge, governments, people, start to prioritize resources to healthcare and one of the very first places they focus is vaccination," says Witty.
GSK has capped the cost of its drugs in the world's least developed nations at 25% of UK prices, with HIV drugs at cost. It has pledged to hand 20% of its profits from these countries to charities for the development of healthcare infrastructure. He has urged the rest of the drugs industry to do the same saying the individual impact is modest but the aggregate impact is significant.
These type of initiatives are more in line with a post I wrote almost a year ago about "Why Betterness is Good Business". The gist was that companies who were good corporate citizens as well as well-run businesses earned best-in-class profits too. There is a good, old-fashioned ROI incentive (in addition to perhaps more altruistic goals) to be in touch with your customers and society in a meaningful way.
Posted by Bruce Lehr March 20th 2011.