This is an excerpt from our CCO Guide on Stakeholder Capitalism and ESG, available here, a study guide to help chief communication officers (CCOs) and their teams move up the Progression Path on Advancing Societal Value that was first laid out in the 2019 Page report, The CCO as Pacesetter.

In 2016, Novartis refreshed its corporate brand, “reimagining medicine to improve and extend people’s lives,” and included the key concepts of breakthrough science and access to that medical innovation directly into the purpose statement. This change recognized that medical science is only useful if it gets to the patients who need it. 

Well-known by stakeholders for scientific leadership, the company aimed to do more to embed “holistic access thinking” into the company’s processes and culture to take meaningful action on its purpose statement. 

Carrie Scott, then head of corporate brand and reputation management in the corporate communication function, led a team of commercial and functional leaders to develop the Novartis Access Principles. This commitment is that all new medicines Novartis brings to society will launch with a global access strategy to reach more underserved patients. 

Marrying scientific innovation and access right at launch means that teams need to plan years in advance to both bring the medicine to the market and determine how to get it to more people who need it, including underserved communities. The Access Principles set out expectations for the launch teams in the areas of affordability, research and development and healthcare systems strengthening. The focus is not on philanthropy or one-off initiatives, but on how to find new ways to systematically increase access to the company’s core innovation in a commercially sustainable way. 

After Executive Committee and Board of Directors Committee approval, the CEO launched the Access Principles in 2017. The principles are part of the Executive Committee’s Balanced Scorecard, individual objectives and remuneration. 

Novartis increased its rank to #2 in the Access to Medicine Index and is well-known by ESG investors and ratings agencies for its systematic approach to access to medicines. Actioning the company’s purpose is a source of pride for employees and a deciding factor for future talent, as demonstrated through ongoing surveys. 

Scott is still involved in leading this work, now in her new role as Head of ESG Management Office for Novartis.