GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is a research-based pharmaceutical company whose mission it is to “improve the quality of human life by enabling people to do more, feel better and live longer.”
The company employees roughly 99,000 people in more than 100 countries. Of these 99,000 employees, about 12,800 of them work in research teams screening approximately 65 million compounds annually every year, hoping to discover new medicines.
In 2009, GSK delivered 1.4 billion vaccine doses in 2009 of which roughly 1 billion vaccine doses were delivered for use in developing countries. In the developing world, GSK offers special pricing on particular medications allowing for the poorest individuals in these third-world countries to have access to life-saving treatments and vaccines. The above examples not only highlight GSK’s humanitarian efforts but also provide a glimpse into GSK’s social sustainability activities.
GSK has made significant progress over the course of past several years in changing the way the company is doing business by putting sustainability at the forefront of its business model and integrating sustainability into its corporate strategy.
In the end, GSK’s envisioned future is to change how the company does business by adopting and implementing sustainable policies and a philosophy, which take into account the ecosystem, optimizes the company’s efficiencies of its business processes with sustainability in mind, and increases dependence on renewable materials and energies in GSK’s business practices across all functional areas.
GSK’s vision of a sustainable future began with changing its business processes by aligning these business practices with the natural environment. To achieve this, GSK’s focus is on optimizing efficiency of its business practices and processes by eliminating waste.
GSK actually starting thinking about sustainability when the company was first formed in 2000. While early efforts on sustainability focused more on operational impacts, including, reduction of energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, GSK formalized its sustainability strategy in 2001, which included three main priorities:
- Embedding ecological principles into its business processes to avoid adverse impacts,
- embracing sustainable policies and practices as a guide for using resources responsibly and
- providing transparency of its business activities by informing stakeholders of the company’s actions related to its business practices.
In effect, formalizing GSK’s strategy on sustainability moved the company’s efforts in this area from improving the company’s short-term internal operational impact on the environment to a long-term external effort to lessen GSK’s ecological impact across all business processes and functional areas.
An important component of this strategy is the adoption and implementation of a cradle2cradle sustainable design approach in which waste from the manufacturing process is not disposed of but converted into useful by-products for reuse by GSK or other businesses.
Recognizing that a sustainable future for the company cannot be accomplished in a vacuum, GSK is working with external stakeholders and its employees to incorporate sustainability practices, policies and principles into every facet of its healthcare business and product life cycles to reduce the company’s environmental footprint by conducting its business activities with the environment in mind.
GSK also fosters social equity by recognizing sustainable innovation and programs by GSK project teams that benefit the company but more importantly, contribute to an improved quality of life for the society at large.
A sustainable future for GSK will be not happen overnight but is a journey that evolves over time. Sustainability by its very nature is a change process that involves a conscious choice by the company’s senior management team and front-line employees to change the GSK corporate culture in the way it traditionally conducts business operations to remain profitable.
By adopting and implementing a sustainability strategy, GSK recognizes that the process of change is challenging with many hard decisions ahead. That said a sustainable future does not mean a less profitable one and like other companies, GSK is betting that a sustainability culture will strengthen GSK's profitability while maintaining its stewardship of the global environment, economy and society, which is good for the company, customers, patients, and shareholders alike. GSK’s sustainability and corporate social responsibility initiatives and programs are detailed here.