“India can lead in sustainable development in the way it uses the resources that are available”
…believes Dr Klaus Leisinger, Chairman, Novartis Foundation for Sustainable Development. An active member of the Foundation, Dr Leisinger is also pursuing his academic career as the Professor of Sociology at the University of Basel.
Elaborate on your journey in this industry over the years and some of the landmarks.
If one is working in a single company for a prolonged period of time he/she witnesses various landmarks and memorable achievements. One of them was certainly the fact that I had the opportunity to work for four years in Sub-Saharan Africa to eventually run the pharmaceutical business in 8 Eastern African countries and get first-hand field experience. Another landmark was, when the UN Secretary General appointed me his ‘Special Advisor’ on corporate responsibility matters and UN Global Compact, while the most touching one was, when my book on business ethics titled ‘Corporate Ethics in a Time of Globalisation’ was translated into Braille. Different people in different professional ‘silos’ see the world differently; they have different skills, experiences and resources. We will achieve better results if we combine the multitude of skills and resources and bring them into one ‘solution stakeholder team’.
Mention a few learnings…
When I started – nearly 30 years ago – with academic work on ‘Health Policy for Least Developed Countries’ I realised during my time in East Africa that reality is more complex than theoretical literature would suggest. If we continue to single out and isolate individual issues instead of thinking in terms of the health system, we will not make big gains. Many people with good intentions are, for example, convinced that the price of pharma is the single biggest obstacle for easy access of medicines to the poor. This, however, is only true if and when there is proper diagnosis, hospital and laboratory services, if properly trained health personnel is where it is supposed to be and works with a good motivation – ie, if the salaries are appropriate and regularly paid. In addition, it is important that the referral system functions where patients at the lowest possible level in the health pyramid are treated. Last but not the least, better health awareness will lead to a change of unhealthy attitudes and lifestyles and this prevents sickness.
The functioning of Novartis Foundation for Sustainable Development (NFSD) and its contribution since the past 25 years…
Since our inception there are three pillars upon which the foundations’ work rests. We design, finance, manage, evaluate and bring health assistance projects to scale to improve the health of poor patients in low-income countries; we contribute to and shape the scientific and public debate on poverty-related health problems and, we strive to engage in stakeholder dialogue and networking to build strategic alliances and work with other stakeholders engaged in the same areas.
The Novartis Foundation is part of the corporate responsibility portfolio of Novartis. The foundation has seven staff members and an annual budget of about 10 million Swiss francs. Some of the key results we have achieved so far include:
- Helped improve access to health care and medicines for millions of patients in low-income countries and saved 10,000s of lives, mainly children under five
- Supported approximately 5 million (to-date) children and youths affected by HIV/AIDS, poverty and conflict in Southern and East Africa
- Awarded Consultative Status at the UN Economic and Social Council
How is sustainable development important for India?
Sustainable development in terms of the Brundtland report continues to mean that we have to strive for a lifestyle and social, economical, political and technical development pattern that not only satisfies our needs but also ensures the satisfaction of the needs of future generations. We are the first generation that has the material and intellectual resources to eradicate absolute poverty. India can lead in sustainable development in the way it uses the resources that are available and if every individual adopts a lifestyle that reflects sustainability. This would make everybody’s contribution for sustainability almost a moral demand.
By Titash Roy Choudhury (firstname.lastname@example.org)