IRI: Sustainable Healthcare is Everyone’s Business
“When a CSR strategy is integrated into the healthcare system’s core activities, the healthcare system can become resilient to current and future challenges”
CSR: A tool for Sustainable Development
Sustainability is often associated with the environment or the economy, and as such, industries and systems such as healthcare are sometimes overlooked. In light of this, the Islamic Reporting Initiative (IRI), a Corporate Sustainability and Social Responsibility (CSR) reporting framework, which aspires to being the first mainstream tool for CSR based on Islamic principles, seeks to bring healthcare to the foreground of sustainability. CSR is broadly defined as the “the continuing commitment by business organisations to behave ethically and contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the workplace and their families, as well as of the local community and society at large” (World Business Council for Sustainable Development). With this definition in mind, the relevance of CSR and its capacity to support the healthcare system in its purpose – supporting populations in staying healthy and providing access to quality care for patients – moves healthcare and its provision towards becoming everyone’s business.
CSR and the Healthcare System
Healthcare is inextricably linked to sustainable development; it is both a contributor to, and beneficiary of, the concept. Thus it can be understood that a healthy population is likely to be more productive, both stimulating and maintaining a thriving economy. In turn, such an economy is able to invest in, and uphold, a quality healthcare system. This demonstrates the interdependency and interconnectivity of sustainable economic growth and high public health standards.
One method of positively contributing to this inter-dependent relationship is through the ever-increasing application of healthcare to an organisation’s CSR program. This change is reflective of an ongoing shift in the location of healthcare responsibility, which previously was more associated with public healthcare facilities; now it is seen as the duty of the wider population. This transition is representative of the change in focus from treatment to prevention. Rather than positioning the healthcare system as solely an end provider in the treatment of poor health, the system is increasingly becoming a proactive supporter of prevention. Such a shift is important in working to minimise the pressures on the healthcare sector, particularly in terms of costly clinical interventions.
To adopt this approach, it is widely accepted that it is essential to understand the factors that not only affect population health but also that affect the healthcare system; this is where CSR really comes to the fore. CSR, by definition, is the responsibility of any organisation, and of any sector, towards society and the environment. As such, with increasing uptake of health-related matters in CSR policies, a situation is developing whereby organisations are directly and indirectly contributing to healthcare knowledge and service provision, through their own industry-specific lens. With such multi-sector engagement, the healthcare industry is able to benefit from wide-ranging expertise and forecasting to strengthen the system against future challenges.
Healthcare is ‘Everyone’s Business’
This increasing recognition of the relationship between the economy and the healthcare system is shaping policy at a number of levels. As such, health-related policies are featuring prominently in international efforts to promote sustainable development, with examples including Agenda 21 and the Post 2015 Development Agenda. At the level of the corporation, organisations are identifying and acting upon the opportunities related to improving the health of their workforce and that of the local community. The increasing prevalence of CSR and reporting on such matters is testament to this uptake, and the IRI, by incorporating an impact-oriented methodology, is able to ensure that the intended outcomes of a CSR policy are realised.
How exactly CSR is used to pursue a health objective varies by organisation, and even within industries there are vast differences in approach. The preference for health-related CSR is largely influenced by the organisation’s strengths and stakeholder interests. Bank Muscat, for example, a financial services provider based in Oman, has created a CSR strategy which focuses on employee health and well-being. With much evidence demonstrating the added value of a healthy workforce to a company and the local economy, it is clear why the bank and so many other organisations, have adopted this approach. A multi-tiered program, the bank’s initiative covers the physical and mental health of employees and their families, and is delivered through workshops, access to related activities, forums and gatherings. The bank ensures that it shares this vision by hosting various conferences which serve to raise awareness and exchange best practice on developing healthier workplaces.
Other organisations may align their health-related CSR strategies with their own business operations, and this is an effective way of applying relevant and expert knowledge to a challenge. Bayer Healthcare, a pharmaceutical company, has supported a program aimed at teenagers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to raise awareness of diabetes – a disease which is becoming wide-spread in the region. The company also organises roundtable events which gather international audiences to discuss regional and global health-related challenges.
The sustainable healthcare vision
To ensure the impacts of different strategies are realised and learned from – from the educating of a community on the benefits of a healthy lifestyle to differential pricing for pharmaceutical products in low or middle-income countries – it is essential that these findings are communicated. Effective reporting and communication by different actors in the health system and beyond will yield a substantial health-related knowledge base and prompt joined-up thinking across multiple sectors. This joint effort is necessary for progress to be shared and international standards of best practice met in this newly emerging health network.
Dr Daan Elffers:
CSR Editor of Middle East Business Magazine.
Founder and CEO of EMG, Daan is an experienced management consultant specialised in realising profit and growth through sustainable development. He is a certified Cradle to Cradle consultant. He holds a Master’s degree from the Rotterdam School of Management. Named one of the ‘100 Most Talented Leaders in CSR’ by the World CSR Day organisation.
Islamic Reporting Initiative (IRI): The IRI, a not-for-profit organisation, is aiming to create the first integrated reporting standard for CSR based on Islamic principles and will enable organisations to inclusively assess, report, verify and certify their CSR programs. The IRI is inviting organisations to collaborate and lead in the development of the IRI, to ensure representation of local and sector-specific values.