Because we have entered a period when economic growth is slowing and an inward-looking nationalism is sweeping across Europe and the United States, causing high income country governments to pull back from active roles in international development. With stronger growth continuing in low and middle income countries, most of it driven by the expansion of private sector finance and product markets, companies are better placed than ever to step into the vaccuum.
But with just 14 years to effectively end deaths in pregnancy, childbirth, and childhood, stop the spread of AIDS, TB, and malaria, eliminate child malnutrition, reduce deaths from non-communicable diseases by one third and deaths from road traffic accidents by one half, and meet all unmet need for modern contraception, it is only shared value strategies that have the power to leverage company assets at the scale needed to achieve such ambitious goals. In fact, we will need shared value approaches firing on all cylinders in a majority of healthcare companies by 2020 to have even a chance of achieving the SDGs.
In this environment, the companies that can deliver health benefits to the massive underserved populations on this planet and build stronger businesses as a result, may well turn out to be the biggest contributers in the SDG era.
There is no doubt the early adopters of shared value in global health – Nestlé, Novartis, Novo Nordisk, Becton Dickinson, GSK, Danone, Unilever, and the other companies listed on Fortune’s Change the World list – have a head start and many are busy reinventing their businesses. Efforts like Novartis Access, Becton Dickinson’s Odon Device, Nestlé’s portfolio of shared value initiatives across nutrition, water, rural development and the environment, and Novo Nordisk’s Changing Diabetes® access agenda are leading examples of companies building markets for their products and improving public health at the same time.
But watch out for the global technology powerhouses of Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft, Facebook and Amazon and the new wave of healthcare disruptors including NantHealth, Intarcia Therapeutics, Moderna, Jawbone, Guahao, Stemcentrx, Privia Health, Adaptive Biotechnologies and Reata Pharmaceuticals. Think what this group of companies could do if they aligned their future investments in health with shared value and the SDGs, prioritizing the emerging markets that are both the source of their future growth and the places where public health challenges are most acute. Silicon Valley has already signalled it is going to step up its global development work.
The winning companies who contribute most to the health SDGs will be those who achieve a competitive advantage in executing shared value initiatives across five areas: 1) data quantity and quality, 2) application of new and emerging technologies (e.g. AI/machine learning, DNA sequencing, CRISPR, nanotechnology, drones, 3D printing), 3) network reach and quality, 4) partner quality (government, NGO, academic, business), and 5) leadership quality.
The companies that can activate all of these assets through the kind of collective impact partnerships described by Mark Karmer and Marc Pfitzer in The Ecosystem of Shared Value can potentially contribute more to the achievement of the new health goals than any government or non-profit organization.