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Merck & Co.

Anti-corruption Initiative
In the late 1990s Merck & Co. faced a growing challenge to win its fair share of pharmaceutical business in developing markets around the world, because of endemic bribery and other corrupt practices in which it refused to engage. Its company foundation, meanwhile, was seeking ways to mitigate the corrosive effect of corruption, such as sub-par health care and productivity, on developing societies where it did business. To address both challenges, the company launched an initiative to promote ethical workplace standards in government and businesses in the United Arab Emirates, through funding of the Gulf Centre for Excellence in Ethics, a non-profit educational institute. The Centre was managed by the Washington, D.C.-based Ethics Resource Center, and initially sponsored by the UAE Ministry of Health. The program later provided a model for similar Merck initiatives in South Africa, Colombia and Turkey.

After five years and a $3 million investment, Merck engaged Jonathan Levine to assess the UAE program on several levels:

  • to document benefits for UAE society and Merck's commercial interests;
  • to provide evidence of the business case for the program;
  • to generate motivation for other global Merck subsidiaries to undertake similar initiatives;
  • to understand program elements that worked well and which didn't, and thus
  • to prescribe recommendations for improving the strategy's effectiveness.

Through interviews with ministry officials and health professionals, institute managers and members, and business and government executives across the country, the research identified the institute's major accomplishments and shortcomings. It identified key startup lessons, organizational strengths and weaknesses, and success factors for organizational adoption of ethics standards in the UAE culture. The analysis defined, for example, the business, cultural and legal causes of resistance by the private sector to commit employees to ethics training. It also uncovered qualitative and quantitative evidence of behavioral change within the health ministry due in whole or part to the institut's ethics program.

"Jon's study provided us some of the first evidence of the impact of our efforts," says Brenda Colatrella, senior director of Merck's office of contributions. "For the first time we could make a linkage between our attempt to help build the institutions of a civil society and the long-term advantages to Merck's business strategy. We now have a basis for analyzing the business case, which will be of immeasurable benefit as we refine our future strategy."

Read the Executive Summary and a full Case Study (published by the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship).

 

Peru's indigenous Aymara

Wagabi of Papua New Guinea

Rural health in Guatemala
Top: Peru's indigenous Aymara
Middle: Wagabi of Papua New Guinea
Bottom: Rural health in Guatemala

Photos by Jonathan Levine
 
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