“Just another corporate easing their conscience & buying charity silence?”
May 10, 2013. London, United Kingdom.
One of the world’s biggest pharmaceutical companies and a global charity has announced a 5 year partnership worth more than £15 million. The two organisations are seemingly unlikely partners, given that Save the Children was one of a number of organisations who have campaigned heavily against GSK in recent years to lower their drug prices for developing countries. So what has made the partnership work? Is this green washing or is there a strategic and innovative corporate/social partnership example that we can all learn from?
The partnership is a brave move for a charity with a credible and global portfolio of projects around the world. But it is also a clever one. Likewise, GSK have chosen their causal-marketing bedfellow well. Both have had time to consider what large scale partnership would look and feel like, having worked collaboratively on local partnerships in Africa for nearly 8 years. So taking the relationship to the next level hasn’t been the corporate equivalent of eloping in Vegas for the sake of publicity. These two have courted and campaigned and come to a mutually beneficial commitment that is both commercially clever and genuinely life changing.
The partnership will involve the training, resourcing and employment of thousands of much needed rural health workers. It will also involve product development and innovation of GSK’s existing pharma products to meet specific and life-saving needs in developing countries. The partnership will heavily focus on the delivery and provision of preventative vaccines to some of the poorest communities, initially in Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo, but eventually throughout sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and Asia. The overall aim is to save the lives of over a million children who would otherwise die of preventative illness.
So what do each of these partners look to gain from such a lucrative association?
For GSK, there is a clear commercial advantage from being a first-mover in the field of large scale pharmaceutical philanthropy. Whilst they aren’t the first to give to charity or even partner with charity in their commercial space, the nature of their partnership and commitment will give them a definite advantage. GSK have drawn a line in the sand for how their business will now operate and are seeking to transform the nature of their commercial legacy in the world. The gravity of such a decision can’t be underestimated and we need to acknowledge that the lives of millions of people will be genuinely impacted by this decision. But for GSK, their presence and provision to so many emerging markets will build brand loyalty, association and a corporate reputation better than anything even the best advertising campaigns could offer. The potential future sales revenue in these emerging markets is a commercially advantageous goal to pursue and certainly one that has undoubtedly been considered, albeit alongside the altruistic motivation for their decision to partner with Save the Children. And why not? If a company can do good as well as do good business should we not applaud genuine and deeply rooted corporate social responsibility and philanthropic innovation? In a statement to announce the partnership GSK have said that a key element of the partnership is “Developing a blueprint for how businesses can deliver better social outcomes by engaging with health and development issues and pursuing joint advocacy efforts to ensure a focus on children’s health and wellbeing are maintained in global health policy discussions.”
The decision for GSK to be involved has come with the assertion that their own staff will be a vital ingredient in creating this new legacy for their company. They have encouraged their staff to raise at least £1million a year for the partnership. The engagement of their staff to increase and create discretionary effort for GSK’s overall productivity as a competitive and increasingly successful company is a smart move for their human resources aspirations as well as retention of talented and skilled workforce.
What does the partnership mean for Save The Children?
Save the Children have now become part of an exclusive club of charities that have engineered and negotiated high profile associations with multi-national companies. Most notably is the well-known example of ‘one pack = one vaccine’ by Pampers and UNICEF – an example that quite literally destroyed the commercial competition in that space, but also delivered millions of vaccines through the work of UNICEF.
Working in this high profile charity league will bring increased scrutiny for the charity of their policies and practice and indeed even their value for money. Save The Children have no doubt considered this, and to their credit have demonstrated effective fiscal transparency for some time now. But the association will potentially open new funding streams too. Corporates (justifiably in many situations) will view Save the Children as a charity that can ‘play with the big boys’ and perhaps feel safer about engaging in a corporate relationship with them too.
Such a large commitment of support will also bring a new scale of operations in the charity’s service delivery at a local level. Governance, policy implementation and missional values will need to be managed on an increasingly effective and much larger scale than perhaps they are presently used to operating. But this will also bring an increased capacity amongst staff and supporters that will serve them well for future project development. Save The Children have even been given a place on the board of GSK’s R&D unit, which gives the charity a rare and privileged opportunity to directly impact the direction of the company’s product development over the coming years.
It will be interesting to watch the nature and tone of Save the Children’s campaigning to see if there is any evolving change in tone and tenacity when it comes to issues that are impacted by companies like GSK. Save the Children were considerably vociferous in their campaigning against GSK around issues of provision and pricing of HIV/Aids medications and general pricing on drugs and their availability to poorer countries in recent years. Justin Forsyth, Save The Children Chief Executive said “Many years ago I used to campaign against GlaxoSmithKline and press them to lower Aids drugs prices, and we gave them quite a hard time, but GlaxoSmithKline has changed enormously and under [Sir Andrew Witty’s] leadership is leading not just the pharmaceutical sector but actually the private sector in terms of setting a standard for how a company moves beyond just corporate responsibility and philanthropy to how its core business can be transformative in terms of children,” he told the Guardian newspaper.
Save the Children also look to gain thousands of new advocates in the engagement of GSK’s global workforce. As GSK’s staff become more aware of the work of Save The Children, they will inevitably also be inspired to do more and perhaps even give in a personal capacity both in time and money to the charity, beyond the expectations of the employee engagement programme. Globally, the impact of this engagement is likely to be prolific for the charity in all of the corresponding countries as the GSK/STC partnership is rolled out.
What can we learn from the example of this partnership?
1. CSR is much more than asserted and aspirational goals and objectives. Truly effective and genuine CSR emerges from the core of commercial business and manifests in altruistic, commercially viable and ideally advantageous implementation. The better you do at business, so long as it is done ethically, the greater good you can deliver via your charitable partners.
2. Philanthropic partnership does not give companies a licence to gag their charity partners with a bought silence on issues of efficacy and justice. Effective partnerships can actually allow for each partner to become ‘critical friends’ who are able to create common and impactful good, whilst maintaining and continuing to do what they each do best.
3. Innovation is key in effective causal relationships between charities and companies. In this example we see how GSK have committed to innovate their existing commercial products to meet specific humanitarian needs identified through the work of Save the Children. In addition to this they are also embarking on a process of collaborative product development which brings the charity and its own expertise into the very core of GSK’s business of pharmaceutical innovation. That kind of direct link between product innovation and end user of those products (either purchasing consumer or beneficiary consumer) is rare in any business and will inevitably bring a commercial insight that will undoubtedly be advantageous for the wider business.
4. The profile of such partnerships is equally beneficial to both charity and business. For the charity, it brings a new level of trustworthiness from an often sceptical corporate world and opens up new funding streams in an economically barren funding landscape. It also gives the charity access to a whole new market of potential supporters and individual donors who are not only exposed to the charity through their work, but encouraged to be involved with the company’s chosen charity partner. For the business, the partnership redeems a company who were previously villainised by the charity and sends a clear message to hundreds of thousands of engaged campaigners and Save The Children supporters that GSK is now an ethically good company rather than an oppressive capitalist tyrant. That kind of endorsement can never be achieved by simply auditing and publicising your latest CSR audit. It takes your CSR audit and due diligence processes and explodes them into a living, breathing force for good.
The partnership between GSK and Save The Children has created a new high waterline in causal marketing and CSR implementation. The partnership is undoubtedly possible due to the substantial profits and turnover of a global commercial giant. So what does all this learning mean for companies who are not yet ending their financial year with a profit of more than $9 Billion?
The principles actually remain the same. The only potential difference is that an SME wanting to engage in an innovative and genuinely ethical partnership with a charity can leverage the influence and power of the charity brand to a greater degree than GSK perhaps need to. If the charity brand is bigger than yours, the benefits of driving footfall, endorsement marketing and credible recommendation will serve a company well.
Whether your company is large or small, asking Charities to quantify and qualify the specific return for wider society and your business in exchange for significant donations is something that should become much more standardised in philanthropic relationships. It increases transparency and accountability for both company and charity and ensures that CSR moves beyond green-washing or window dressing into genuinely life changing commercial and sustainable change.
Ultimately, the greater and ethical good that can come from effective corporate charity relationships is undoubtedly life-changing. When these relationships are taken to scale, the impact can become world-changing.
“Will the latest Bangladesh fatalities finally bring change to unethical supply chains?”
April 25, 2013. London, United Kingdom.
Yet another horrific incident has occurred in Bangladesh. On April 24th a factory collapse killed more than 1000 people, injured more than 2,500 and forced a 24 hour rescue operation that rescued more than 2,400 people including many children. The building housed a number of garment factories that have become sadly typical of industry in Bangladesh. Sadly typical because the workers are extremely low paid and often work in extremely poor and unsafe conditions. So why haven’t the previous disasters, like the Tazreen factory fire last November that killed 112 people and injured a further 200, had any effect on industry and safety standards?
Bangladesh is one of the poorest countries in the world, with more than a quarter of its population living in extreme poverty on less than $1 a day. In an effort to pull itself out of poverty, Bangladesh has made great efforts to attract western retailers to submit manufacturing orders with local suppliers instead of with their competitors in China, Vietnam and Latin America. Bangladesh is now the second largest exporter of apparel in the world. Despite having some of the longest lead times for orders and complex bureaucracy, retailers continue to come back to suppliers in Bangladesh because of one little thing – cost. Little being the operative word as the continued drive for cheaper items like clothes, drives down the retail price which in turn drives down even harder on the suppliers and workers who make the items. Workers in Bangladesh work for as little as 14₵ (US) an hour compared with workers making similar items in China who would receive around $1 (US) an hour.
It is this kind of commercial lure that attracts companies like budget clothing company Primark to source from Bangladesh. Primark confirmed that one of the factories in today’s building collapse, supplied garments to their UK stores. Global retailer Wal-Mart said it was investigating whether the factories were currently producing any items for their stores.
So where does the blame lie for a preventable catastrophe like this?
In this situation and the similar incidents before it seems the unethical reality is unfortunately quite simple. Life is cheap. Or at least it is to some unethical retailers. In the race to win every consumer pound, retailers will drive their prices down. There are clear limits to how far profitability will be impacted, so in turn the pressure is placed on the manufacturer. Combined with highly pressured lead times, costs are driven to a point where everything and everyone at the bottom of the supply chain is hard-pressed to make any kind of significant profit – with the ultimate losers being the people that actually provide the labour. But cheap labour in Bangladesh, clearly equates to cheap lives too. Why else would retailers continue to force manufacturers into an economic position that means they have little incentive to improve working conditions, or for that matter, a position where they can actually afford to invest in the safety and well-being of their workforce? The only conclusion can be that unethical retailers consider the risk of loss of life to be worth the commercial return they can get if they take their chances.
Primark said “it was ‘shocked and deeply saddened by the appalling incident’, adding that it has been working with other retailers to review the country’s approach to factory standards and will push for this review to include building integrity.” But will this momentary compassion, result in any real change? After all, it is not the first time that retailers like Primark have been caught using exploitative labour.
Retailers must take responsibility for their purchasing power and the effect that it has on poorer countries and desperate manufacturers. The answer is not simply to withdraw orders and force the collapse of businesses and the end of livelihoods for thousands. A better response is to genuinely look at the whole supply chain and ordering systems and see how at a very base level, minimum safety standards and pay can be achieved and then continue to build from there.
Consumers must also take responsibility too. If you are buying a t-shirt for a £1, logic would tell you that someone has got much, much less than that for making it for you. We all need to save money in hard economic times, but should our savings be at the expense of human life?
Companies need to be heavily involved in assurance and sustainability throughout their entire operation and supply chain. On a business level, the risk to brand is massive. On an even more important level – the risk to lives and livelihood, both here and abroad is even greater.
Ethical Goods is a pioneering company that specialise in CSR consultancy and Cause Related Marketing. We create partnerships between companies and relevant charities to mutual benefit by bringing to market ethically made, sourced and sold products and services making a world of difference to people and planet. To find out more about our services, partnerships and products visit
“DUNCAN PARKER, managing director of agency ETHICAL GOODS, emphasises the requirement for careful thought beforehand and then disciplined commitment throughout by both corporates and charities if partnerships are to be successful.
A McKinsey global survey on “The state of corporate philanthropy” (2007) established that the majority of CEOs surveyed agreed that generating high returns for investors should be accompanied by broader contributions to the public good. This demonstrates that the global business community has embraced the idea that it plays a wider role in society.
Increasingly businesses are publically scrutinised and investigated for unethical behaviour, as seen recently with banks and newspapers, and they are turning to charities to help them repair public relationships and build positive reputations.
Businesses recognise that they can build stronger relationships with their stakeholders through charitable alliances and cause related marketing, which can lead to their business realising bigger profits. Businesses want to demonstrate… READ MORE
For the full article click on the link above or here.
The Co-operative Bank puts sales of ethical goods and services in 2011 at more than £47bn, up from £35.5bn five years ago according to a new report.
Since the onset of the economic downturn five years ago, the value of ethical markets from Fairtrade products and green energy to free-range and sustainable food has grown from £35.5bn to £47.2bn, according to a report produced by the Co-operative Bank. The annual ethical consumer markets report shows that sales in the sector have grown from £13.5bn in 1999.
Duncan Parker, Managing Director of Ethical Goods says “In an age where we are sceptical about the intentions and actions of Government, media, role models and banks, we see that the core of the British public want to feel good and secure in their purchasing habits. This report is exciting as it shows much of what we believe to be true about the current market. For the enlightened business, this will act as a comfort to their mission of blending profit, people and planet appropriately.”
As well as consumer desire for more ethical products to be available on the shelves, we see B2B actions increasingly impacting the market. Major businesses in multi-sectors are insisting that to win the contract to supply them with products, price is not always king. Quality and sustainable products that add value to the purchasers corporate social responsibility (CSR) claims are increasingly critical in the scorecard appraisal. Externally audited and accredited CSR reports are not only desired but expected to be standard fare.
It would seem that if 2012 was the year of CSR disasters, the successful businesses of 2013 will be those who understand their social responsibility.
Day 12′s Sustainable Christmas Gift Idea - Home-made Christmas Treats
Our favourite sustainable gift idea is saved until last. And it couldn’t be more on-trend! All the TV cooking and variety shows are showing you how to make economical and unique home made Christmas treats. The site of them gets all of our appetites going, so why not put some of that attraction into action and make some. The best part is if you make a little extra you have some for yourself as well!
We all know how great would it is to receive a hamper of freshly made Christmas treats such as mince pies and Christmas pudding? So this Christmas, give the joy back to someone else! This is a great way to save time pounding the pavements at your local shopping centre or high-street and it will significantly increase your credibility as a great cook – even if you attempt the most basic recipe!
All of the TV chefs have their own suggestions but some of our favourites have come from Nigella Lawson, Nigel Slater and of course Jamie Oliver. Happy Cooking and a very Happy Christmas to you all!
Day 11′s Sustainable Christmas Gift Idea – Gift a Tree
Presents don’t get more sustainable than the gift of a tree! And you certainly won’t be stuck for choice either!
Fruit trees, potted plants, vegetables, Bonsai’s or herbs can be a unique and original present that your loved one can reap the benefits from. Plants not only give back to their owner they also give to the planet through a reduced carbon footprint. Growing your own gift plants avoids transport, packaging, genetic modification as well as time. Fruit trees will give back a yield year after year, whilst flowering plants or bonsai, with a bit of care will bring the garden inside all year round.
A trip to your local garden centre can be a fun day out – most have coffee shops too these days – so why not enjoy the process of choosing your tree to gift as well?! A bit of research online will tell you the ‘symbolism of trees’ and what mythological meaning your foliage has. Alternatively you can go for a potted Christmas tree that the recipients can use year after year or plant in their own garden to grow into neighbourhood feature that can be decorated every year for all to enjoy!
Day 10′s Sustainable Christmas Gift Idea - Homemade Christmas Decorations
Christmas decorations have become quite dull, unless you have a huge budget to spend. Tired of all of the boring baubles, mass produced stars and trinkets that have made our all our trees look like cloned catalogue creations?
Homemade decorations can be created from materials already your home. Anyone can make decorations and even the most basic of creative efforts can prove to be a thoughtful keepsake that will make an annual appearance for years to come.This gift shows that you have taken thought and time into the creation which can take its place and create that extra bit of glamour on the Christmas tree year after year.
Cut out two bell shapes and cut a hole in one of them to make a photo frame. Put pictures of your family, of the recipients or of special places or people that mean something to you, stick together and then decorate. Shape cutting out of paper or using moulding clay that dries out and cookie cutter shapes or leftover glitter or sequins also make nice decorations. A classic is multi-coloured popcorn threaded onto a garland of string to get a retro feel to their tree, or using old photos with ribbons tied through a hole punched in the top to make a nostalgic and very simple decoration. If you are really short of ideas, just google ‘home made Christmas decorations’ and literally thousands of ideas will come right to your screen.
You’re using stuff you already have to replace things that are made on mass, many in not such sustainable ways, to help family and friends decorate their homes in a thoughtful and festive way!
Day 9′s Sustainable Christmas Gift Idea – A Night-In Gift Pack
A great gift idea for families is a ‘Night-In’ gift pack made up of all the things to enjoy a cosy night in with all the family. This is not just economical but it is an opportunity to enjoy those special family moments. And in order to sustain family relationships you have to spend quality time together! That’s sustainability in action!
The gift pack can be made up of various products such as:
a. An (email) voucher to download their favourite film or a DVD (loads available in the sales).
b. A pre-prepared home cooked meal for all the family to enjoy. Use some of those great Cook books on your shelves that have been gathering dust all year and try something new!
c. A bottle of their favourite fair trade and other ethically sourced wine
d. Chocolate treats made from fair trade ingredients
Those are just a few ideas – but the best packs include things that you know the recipients will enjoy. Board games, quiz boxes and treasure hunts are just a few other ideas that can be explored. Whatever you include, they will be sure to love having everything prepared or some fresh and thoughtful ideas for time together in the midst of busy Christmas celebrations.
Ethical Goods would like to take this opportunity to wish you a Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year!
We hope that your time together with family and friends this Christmas is full of wonder, generosity and peace. We also hope that 2013 is a great year for you.
If you are making any resolutions, why not resolve to be more ethical in every way. If you’re looking for ideas for how you and your business can do this, then get in touch. But for now, enjoy the celebrations!
Day 8′s Sustainable Christmas Gift Idea – Ethical Stationery
A great present to buy is a product that is linked with charity. Not only can you be sure that you get a useful, ethical product, but you also know that something good happens when you buy it.
We think a pretty great example of this can be found with Portico Designs Ethical Stationary range. Some of the great range can be found at WHSmith’s retailer or online. This great gift is not only great as a stocking filler but 25% of the profit goes to the international charity Plan UK, ensuring that children get an education. The gift is also a great way to help your own kids or teens understand some of the wider context and needs of children in other parts of our world.
So for quality, ethical and great designed stationery that makes a real difference, go to the Ethical Stationery website and place your order now!