The World Economic Forum recently launched the report "Social Innovation: A Guide to Achieving Corporate and Societal Value" in collaboration with Oliver Wyman. The guide profiles companies, including several in the healthcare industry, that are helping underserved communities and showing why social innovation is becoming an increasingly relevant strategy for companies to pursue. Spotlighting case studies from global health leaders Becton, Dickinson and Company, Novo Nordisk, and Novartis, the report illustrates what social innovation strategies and business models look like, what the range of opportunities are, and the business benefits companies can get from pursuing them. Highlights below:
Social innovation is defined by the Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Social Innovation as "the application of innovative, practical, sustainable, market-based approaches to benefit society in general, and low-income or underserved populations in particular." The report draws from workshops and interviews with over 30 executives from major multinationals and leading companies and advice from the Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Social Innovation to offer recommendations for companies.
Case studies from the healthcare industry include:
- Becton, Dickinson and Company: In the late 1980s, concern was growing among health workers regarding disease transmission risks from needle-stick injuries in their work environment. Although, BD was the largest producer of needles in the world, the company identified safety-engineered designs as a key area for business growth and social impact. Today, their enhanced devices generate over $2.6 billion annually in global turnover – a successful strategy that, in many countries, preceded legislation requiring health facilities to use them.
- Novo Nordisk: Historically, a key obstacle to treating diabetes in Bangladesh has been the availability of insulin. In 2006, the Denmark-based global healthcare company Novo Nordisk undertook a study that found that only 16% of the country’s population (all living in or near the capital of Dhaka) had access to Novo Nordisk products. With the study results in hand, Novo Nordisk identified several ways to strengthen its insulin distribution network that alone led to a compound annual growth rate in insulin sales of 9.5% in the past decade.
- Novartis: In 2007, the Swiss-based multinational pharmaceutical company Novartis started its Healthy Family programme in India. After three years, the programme, which provides health education and affordable medicines to rural villagers, became profitable and has since been rolled out in 17 Indian states and three other countries: Kenya, Vietnam, and Indonesia. Further markets are expected to follow.
“Today many countries suffer from high and rising inequality with many citizens unable to fully benefit from economic progress," explained Jennifer Blanke, Chief Economist at the World Economic Forum. "Of course this is a major concern for governments around the world, but business also has an important role to play in addressing these challenges. This report provides an important tool for our discussions on how businesses can support a growth process that is both inclusive and sustainable.”
Added Simon Cooper, Partner, Head of the Social Impact Practice at Oliver Wyman UK: “Social innovation is still at an early stage of development. There are examples of successes, but these companies have often had to pursue a challenging and bespoke path to achieving this. We don’t believe there is a one-size-fits-all solution to initiating or scaling social innovation, but by studying those who have succeeded we have identified key drivers that all companies can learn from. We hope that by presenting this framework, and making it real through practical case studies, more companies can identify and pursue their own unique path into social innovative opportunities."
The United Nations recently launched the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), offering an opportune framework for many more companies to adopt such initiatives, alongside civil society leaders, governments, and social entrepreneurs. Companies can use insights from the examples and best practices shared in this report to design initiatives that contribute to a number of SDGs relating to poverty reduction or access to food, health, education, energy, and sanitation.