Charity or a Social Investment?

Petra Wahlström has published an interesting article on csr-i-praktiken.se regarding the different views on charity or corporate donations in US and in Sweden. I have discussed the same topic quite often myself, based upon Pfizer’s philanthropic programs. Our so called Global Health programs include initiatives such as Infectious Diseases Institute, Diflucan Partnership Program, and International Trachoma Initiative, and have a magnitude of approximately 2,4 billion US dollars per year. I had the privilege in October last year to review these programs on-site in Africa, and I was heavily impressed. Read about my thoughts via e.g. these links:

- A day at the Infectious Diseases Institute

- A day with the International Trachoma Initiative

- A day with the Diflucan Partnership Program

What puzzles me is the different reactions I receive when I present these kind of programs for stakeholders in for instance the US and here in Sweden. As Petra Wahlström points out in her article, these initiatives are something looked upon as very positive, and to be honest almost expected from a large corporation such as Pfizer Inc., in the United States. However, here in Sweden stakeholders are ”suspicious” – does Pfizer have a ”hidden agenda” or something like that? Hence, I actually here in Sweden very often talk about these philanthropic or charity programs as longterm social investments. If we as a corporation help to build the needed healthcare infrastructure (e.g. via Infectious Diseases Institute), these countries have a better ability to fully utilize the large pharmaceutical product donations (in programs such as Diflucan Parnership and International Trachoma Initiative). Through this work we save lifes, we help to build these countries, and from a longterm commercial perspective build future markets for our products and services. Today we cannot charge for the products and services, but as the prosperity grow in those countries, we eventually will have that possibility. And it is so interesting to see that when people here in Sweden receive that perspective of the philanthropic programs they somehow loose their ”suspicious mindset”. It is strange, but as Petra Wahlström says:

”I USA är välgörenhet en självklarhet. Men i Sverige är synen på att skänka pengar en annan.”

(In English: In the US charity is something taken for granted. But in Sweden, the view on money donations is different.”)

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