Implementing CSR Health Initiatives

Health is increasingly becoming a focal point of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), largely due to the recognition that a healthy workforce and community are fundamental to the longevity of a business and success of an economy. Subsequently, this blog focuses on CSR health initiatives implemented by global corporations as part of their CSR programs.

Many corporations typically implement CSR health initiatives organized along internal and external lines, often complementing and extending their business operations. Internal strategies may be implemented to improve the working environment, to reduce negative externalities or to establish access to facilities that are of relevance to the corporation’s demographic and risk profile.

For example, as part of a wider CSR strategy Rio Tinto, a global mining corporation, developed an Employee Well-Being Program which is comprised of three elements: An Occupational Health Management Program, an Occupational Hygiene Monitoring Program, and an Occupational Medical Surveillance Program, which aim to promote and maintain employees’ physical, mental, and social well-being. In line with this, operations at Rio Tinto Iron Ore Company of Canada (IOC) work with the provincial government and union to ensure occupational dust control on site to minimize health risks associated with excess dust.

Similarly, Glaxo Wellcome Manufacturing Pte Ltd Singapore, an organization making products for GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), offers free comprehensive health screening, opportunities for physical activity, and an improved canteen (offering a variety of healthy foodstuffs and take-away arrangements) to its employees. Subsequently, the organization has recorded significant changes in employee health and productivity.

External CSR health initiatives may be introduced to mitigate risks and / or to extend benefits to the environment and communities. In many cases there is a synergy between the internal and external strategies and very often they are shaped by the nature of the business itself.

For example, Alliance Boots, an international pharmacy-led health and beauty group, has an internal strategy that has seen the introduction of the ‘We Care About Your Health’ program, designed in collaboration with Dutch health insurer CZ and which provides access to online courses about healthy living. The corporation’s external strategy extends this, offering various health-driven programs including: ‘BootsWebMD’, a consumer health and wellbeing information portal (in partnership with WebMD). Danone, a French multi-national corporation operating within the food and drink manufacturing industry, delivers CSR though a number of country-specific food and health-related campaigns, such as ‘Eat Like a Champ’ in the UK and ‘Mum, Dad, I Prefer Water!’ in Poland. However, many corporations’ CSR health initiatives are beyond their industry knowledge. For example, the Emirates and its similarly named airline foundation offer the extended community a ‘floating’ hospital called The Emirates Friendship Hospital Ship, to provide medical assistance to people affected by monsoon flooding in the most deprived region of Bangladesh.

The channels through which corporations deliver external CSR programs may also differ. While Alliance Boots delivers many of its programs via a network of local pharmacies, Novo Nordisk, a global healthcare company that discovers and develops biological medicines, has established an independent and non-profit foundation, the ‘World Diabetes Foundation’. The foundation develops and funds local initiatives that strengthen healthcare systems and build healthcare capacity in developing countries, and has supported over 300 projects in 108 countries since 2002. Many corporations may enter joint ventures with local or national governments to deliver CSR health initiatives; the Jordan Healthcare Initiative is one developed by Cisco Systems Inc, a corporation that designs and sells internet-based network products and services within the IT and communications industry in collaboration with the Government of Jordan to bridge the gap between rural patients, who may lack resources to access healthcare, and urban hospitals. Cisco Systems Inc contributes by providing specialized software to facilitate peer-to-peer clinical communications, to reach patients in remote locations, to transfer radiological images, and to develop collaboration among physicians.

Contributing to the formalization of CSR is the United Nations Global Compact, a voluntary strategic policy initiative for businesses committing them to deliver on the ‘10 universally accepted principles’ in areas of human rights, labour, environment, and anti-corruption. The Compact offers management tools, resources and programs to help advance sustainable business models. Currently over 10,000 businesses and stakeholders participate, including Bayer HealthCare Saudi Arabia, a global enterprise with core competencies in healthcare, agriculture, and high-tech polymer materials, vis-à-vis awareness programs and roundtable events.

(Ref: UN Global Compact, accessed online <> on 16-12-2014).

Article: CSR health initiatives