Last week Merck released its annual corporate social responsibility (CSR) report, in which the company discusses successes and challenges on the health, economic and environmental fronts. The global pharmaceutical giant, which reached revenues of $48 billion but operated at a loss of $7.3 billion last year, took the opportunity to promote its efforts to boost global access to health and improved environmental performance.
Closely aligned with the company’s overall strategy, Merck’s CSR agenda has four broad points: employee engagement, transparency and ethics, environmental stewardship and, of course, health. After undergoing what Merck considered to be a rigorous materiality assessment, it also shares several of its achievements with its stakeholders, including:
Improving women’s health in the developing world: A year ago the company launched Merck for Mothers, a 10-year program that aims to work on new medicines and technologies to decrease the 287,000 women’s lives lost during childbirth annually. In a partnership with the NGO PATH, the organizations focus on postpartum hemorrhage and preeclampsia, the two leading causes of maternal death. Other global health programs include Merck’s recent donations of vaccines to combat cervical cancer in countries including Uganda.
Water stewardship: In April 2011, Merck joined the United Nations CEO Water Mandate as part of its goals to reduce its overall water consumption. Almost half of the company’s water usage is devoted to cooling its manufacturing facilities, but various water recycling and recovery processes dropped the company’s total water footprint by one billion gallons last year.
HIV/AIDS: Merck has long had an aggressive HIV/AIDS research agenda focused on both prevention and cure. The company supports the training of HIV/AIDS counselors throught the world, including Latin America. One beneficiary is Instituto Vida Nova in Sao Paulo, Brazil, which with financial backing from Merck, trains home care professionals to not only take care of HIV/AIDS parents but to educate these workers and lessen their risk of infection while they are on the job.
Employee Engagement: Whether promoting diversity and inclusion, encouraging volunteerism among its employees or offering a bevy of training programs, Merck is widely admired within and beyond its industry for the opportunities the company offers its 85,000 employees. One interesting training program is a “Microinequities” course that gives employees insight on non-inclusive behaviors across different cultures–and 22,000 employees have taken that class to date. The past few years have been painful for many of Merck’s employees, however, as a result of the restructuring due to Merck’s 2010 acquisition of Schering-Plough.
Transparency and Ethics: During the company’s most recent materiality assessment exercise, many of the company’s stakeholders demanded more transparency about the company’s lobbying and political activities. As a result, Merck has been more forthcoming about the company’s public policy work, especially on issues related to health care reform in the United States. The company hit a perfect score on the inaugural CPA-Zicklin Index of Corporate Political Disclosure and Accountability–joining Colgate-Palmolive, Excelon and IBM.
Merck’s entire CSR report is available here.
Leon Kaye, based in Fresno, California, is a sustainability consultant and the editor of GreenGoPost.com. He also contributes to Guardian Sustainable Business and covers sustainable architecture and design for Inhabitat. You can follow him on Twitter.
Photo courtesy Merck’s CSR Report.