As socially responsible investors who believe that the long-term sustainability of companies requires a commitment to the common good, ICCR members advocate for corporate and systemic reforms to improve access to affordable and quality medicines for all, especially people in marginalized and disenfranchised communities.
By leveraging shareholders’ voices, for decades ICCR members have encouraged pharmaceutical companies to adopt ethical, sustainable, and transparent practices to improve access to affordable medicine and ensure health equity. Pharmaceutical companies have an obligation to ensure that advancements in life-saving medicine and technologies are available, accessible, and affordable to all people. Failure to do so presents significant risks to the company and its stakeholders including its employees, shareholders, and consumers, and more broadly to society, jeopardizing the company’s social license to operate.
This was borne out in 2000 when ICCR members began engaging pharmaceutical companies on their responses to the HIV/AIDS-TB-Malaria pandemics. At the time the cost of treating one patient with AIDS for one year with the latest life-saving drugs approached $10,000 (over $15,000 in 2021 dollars). That year, pharmaceutical companies revived a previously filed lawsuit seeking to overturn South African legislation that among other things could have brought cheaper AIDS drugs through the utilization of lawful intellectual property flexibilities. We realized the risks investors faced from companies’ failure to respond to these pandemics. These included risks to the social contract on which drug companies depend to finance innovation, protect intellectual property and expand to new markets. Since then, we have continued to encourage action by pharmaceutical companies on their access mandates.
In the last decade, ICCR developed Principles and Recommended Practices to assist pharmaceutical companies in promoting the human right to health and to advance strategies that will advance innovation and open access to new markets. The pandemic and its disproportionate impacts - both in terms of who is affected and who has access to vaccines and therapeutics - have called us to reaffirm our commitment to health equity. We expect companies to adopt principles rooted in equity and justice and to safeguard the human right to health. Specifically, we call on companies to:
● Develop and implement a human rights policy based on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, with particular attention to respecting the right to the highest attainable standard of health;
● Adopt a business model that promotes the human right to health by integrating needs-based priority-setting, and access, availability, and affordability strategies at the earliest possible stages of research and development of health products and technologies (e.g., vaccine platforms, medicines, diagnostics, etc.); and ensuring alignment of executive incentive compensation policies, plans, and programs to safeguard the right to the highest standard of health;
● Observe the highest human rights standards in clinical trials, including non-discrimination, the requirement of informed consent, transparency of clinical trial results, providing countries where trials are held with post-trial access to health technologies, conduct post-approval Phase IV trials to assure appropriate pharmacovigilance, commitment to engage in inclusive clinical trials (e.g., appropriate testing on the basis of gender, race, and ethnicity), ensuring that products are tested for appropriate use in children and pregnant women, and avoidance of data exclusivity;
● Ensure equitable allocation of all health care products and services based on public health needs and the global burden of disease, with specific attention paid to low-and middle-income countries and those living in poverty in all countries;
● Ensure that the company’s participation in multilateral initiatives and engagement in public policy or lobbying supports equitable and affordable access to medicines, and the company commits to full disclosure on such positions, including the alignment/misalignment of company policies with membership and trade association positions;
● Develop, implement, and monitor a global code of conduct grounded in responsible and transparent business practices, and adhere to national laws that prohibit practices including, but not limited to, anti-competitive market practices that carry business risk and create barriers to care;
● Be transparent about its access strategy, particularly around pricing, intellectual property portfolios for products in all countries, including pending patents, the contribution of public funding and support to research and development, drug registration, knowledge-sharing, technology transfers, and government contracts;
● Disclose expenditures, per disease category, for research and development, production and manufacturing, and marketing of medicines and vaccines;
● Prioritize and facilitate stakeholder engagement including with governments, civil society, and others who may be critical to the development and iteration of its policies, products, programs, and other activities;
● Commit to inclusive representation by ensuring all boards, leadership teams, and employees are reflective of the communities served by the company;
● Adopt fair tax practices, including disclosure on tax governance, global strategy, and payments aligned with the Global Reporting Initiative’s (GRI) tax standard.
Adrian Dominican Sisters, Portfolio Advisory Board
BMO Global Asset Management part of Columbia Threadneedle Investments
Bon Secours Mercy Health
Boston Common Asset Management
Congregation of St. Joseph
Dana Investment Advisors
Daughters of Charity, Province of St. Louise
Domini Impact Investments
Mercy Investment Services, Inc.
Northwest Coalition for Responsible Investment
Region VI Coalition for Responsible Investment
Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth
Sisters of Charity, BVM
Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia
Sisters of the Humility of Mary
Socially Responsible Investment Coalition
Trillium Asset Management
United Church Funds