These growing risks are good reasons for consumer goods companies to tackle HIV/AIDS where the disease is doing the most harm. But there is another motive we learned about during our interviews: With competition among companies, brands, products, and marketing messages becoming more intense, increased involvement in the fight against HIV/AIDS is seen as a way to drive sales among the growing segment of consumers in the U.S. and Europe who are inclined to purchase products from companies active in supporting social causes.
Our interviews revealed that consumer products companies are applying a mix of marketing, advertising, messaging, and brand promotion capabilities to the creation of local campaigns for HIV/AIDS public awareness and education as well as to workplace programs for employee education, testing, and treatment. These companies are also using their power over the supply chain to enlist the help of channel partners. For instance, Coca-Cola Africa has enlisted Coca-Cola Bottlers of Egypt to join its employee health-care benefits program, which includes targeted HIV/AIDS services, such as coverage for antiretroviral drugs, for workers and their dependents.
Although the model initiatives discussed here are a hopeful sign that businesses are becoming more active leaders in the global and local fight against HIV/AIDS, there is much more companies can do. Because many companies don’t know where to begin and don’t have the skills to manage ongoing social issues campaigns, greater coordination is needed across industries to help engage companies in integrated HIV/AIDS programs involving corporations, governments, and NGOs.
It is equally critical that companies not view financial investments as the sole means of contributing to the battle against this disease. Leveraging their products, services, and assets to combat HIV/AIDS through co-investment strategies, in-kind donations, or other approaches that promote public–private partnerships is just as important.
One of our essential findings is the importance of executive leadership in the success of partnerships and in sustaining HIV/AIDS programs in the workplace. Direct interaction among top executives working in HIV/AIDS-impacted regions and their colleagues at the home office, and greater integration of leadership-training programs with strategic initiatives, need to occur. More executives from outside the region must visit subsidiaries and hospitals and other health-care support facilities to learn firsthand about the devastation of HIV/AIDS and to inspire leadership to do more to actively develop policies on HIV/AIDS and provide resources, education, and care services for their employees and the communities they serve.
Confronting HIV/AIDS makes good business sense, and our research shows companies are becoming more proactive and innovative in leveraging their resources in the global fight against the disease. Their strategies offer models for others to join this fight, too.
John Larkin ([email protected]) is a senior associate with Booz Allen Hamilton in Rockville, Md. He focuses on strategy-based development of global health initiatives within the public and private sectors.
Ellen Knebel ([email protected]) is an associate with Booz Allen Hamilton in McLean, Va. She works with government, NGO, and commercial clients, focusing on public–private partnerships, corporate social responsibility, and the development of global health initiatives.
Joshua Trevino ([email protected]) is a senior consultant with Booz Allen Hamilton in Rockville, Md. He helps articulate strategies to address emerging issues in global health within the public sector.