Ethical Performance
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The challenge of transformational change

January 2014

The start of a New Year generally means a rash of New Year resolutions. I have to admit that I’ve not made my own yet. I always get stuck between setting myself easily achievable (so where’s the challenge in that?) and something totally unachievable (am I really going to jog around the block every morning come rain, sleet and snow?) Still, as I am writing this in December I have some leeway to come up with something hopefully worthwhile.

Some companies have made some pretty big ones. Pharma giant GSK springs to mind. It’s recently announced that it is shaking up its sales process whereby sales personnel will no longer be rewarded by hitting individual sales targets. Instead GSK’s sales professionals who work directly with prescribing healthcare professionals are to be evaluated and rewarded for their technical knowledge, the quality of the service they deliver to support improved patient care and the overall performance of GSK’s business.

The aim is for this new compensation system to be in place in all of the countries GSK operates in by early 2015. More transformational change than resolution in fact. It is good to see that a company the size of GSK recognises that it can reduce the possibility of undue influence by rewarding employees for providing high-quality information and education, rather than for their sales figures.

This is only one part of the pharmaceutical company’s new way of doing business. It is also stopping payments to doctors for making speeches and ending payments to healthcare professional for attending medical conferences.
Sir Andrew Witty, GSK’s ceo, explained the rationale behind the changes: “We believe that it is imperative that we continue to actively challenge our business model at every level to ensure we are responding to the needs of patients and meeting the wider expectations of society.”

I very much like that idea of ‘challenging the business model’. It’s what CSR and sustainability are all about.
GSK hasn’t always been in the good books– a decade ago it received a lot of criticism for its high price tags on HIV drugs for the developing world and it is currently embroiled in a bribery allegation in China – but its ceo’s awareness of ‘the wider expectations of society’ shows a very different approach. Its ongoing collaboration with Save the Children, recently ramped up by giving the charity a seat on GSK’s R&D board, is that mindset in action.

Talking to Procter & Gamble’s (P&G) vice president of sustainability, Len Sauers, recently (see p3), I was struck by a similar vision. Big business no longer sees itself in isolation. These huge titanic entities recognise their global impact. And more importantly they recognise that they cannot effect change on their own. (P&G has just renewed its partnership with WWF that helps it to source sustainable materials.)

I’m hoping 2014 will be the year of collaboration and increased transparency. I think we’re off to a positive start.

Happy New Year! 

Global | Transparency


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