Can one business change the world? 3 routes to profit with social purpose

By Gauthier Delhez

One of my recent highlights on the Future Leaders Programme was attending the 2016 Net Impact Conference in Philadelphia. Here, students and professionals gathered to reflect on how not-for-profits, governments and private companies together can make a lasting social and environmental impact, now and in the future.

We all know that the world is tough today because of the burden of global diseases and inequalities. So it’s important for each of us to think about what we can do in our own remit to change things and to take action.

Experiencing GSK’s business mission and values first hand, I’m convinced we can do well by doing good. In fact, we were recently ranked number 1 on Fortune Magazine’s “List of Companies That are Changing the World” – something we’re really proud of.

But what does that actually look like in reality? How can we operate in a way that will create meaningful sustainable impact for our communities, our people and our business? Working here at GSK, I see evidence of this on a daily basis.

Philanthropy is part of the equation. Whether through the grants that our Community Partnerships and Corporate Social Responsibility teams are working on, or through employee fundraising for charities like Save the Children and UNICEF, this enables non-profit organisations to extend their work further and make a bigger impact in our communities.

But it goes much further than donating funds. Leading academic literature suggests that companies who create value for society also create sustainable business value. The idea that we can use our unique strengths and inherent business model to do this is exciting and has so much transformative potential.

At GSK for example, our tiered pricing strategy means we’re committed to improving access to medicines and vaccines for people in lower income countries. At the same time, we get to grow our presence in these markets. So it’s a win for people and a win for business too.

In the same spirit, our Global Health Programmes teams are making sure we invest part of our profits in the Least Developed Countries back into training local health workers to deliver our products to patients. Also, with our PULSE Programme and skilled Orange Day, employees can develop their leadership and business skills while making a lasting impact for communities by contributing their skills and experience to non-profit organisations.

I feel proud to work at a company that includes social impact in their global strategy as I strongly believe this is the best way to have a lasting impact. This idea not only changed my vision of how a company should operate, but also how individual employees can apply these concepts in their everyday job and decision making.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, as individuals we can make sure that our corporate values are integrated into the way we work and the way we act with others. When facing a difficult decision, I ask myself the following question: will this solution have a positive impact for the patient? Not for me or my personal comfort, but for the patient.

Hearing different perspectives at the conference made me realise that we shouldn’t take what we do at GSK for granted. Through Sir Andrew Witty’s leadership, we’ve led the way in creating positive and sustainable change and we can feel proud of it. But it doesn’t stop there. Wherever you work, making the world a better place through our own actions and our business is an everyday job. So, how will you be the change?