By: John C. Lechleiter | Chairman, President, and CEO at Eli Lilly and Company | March 5th, 2015

The answer: Improve access to medicine and health care for the billions of people living in new and emerging markets. For Lilly CEO John C. Lechleiter (pictured), reaching this customer base is shared value – and it’s no part-time job. In the journey towards enterprise-wide commitment to both business and social profit, Lilly is aiming to improve both revenues and global access to healthcare. In this interview, Lechleiter addresses the challenges of measurement and leadership buy-in, but reaffirms Lilly’s promise to improve quality of life for their customers worldwide.

The following interview is part of the series Leading Shared Value, spotlighting the presenters at the 2015 Shared Value Leadership Summit

Why is shared value one of your priorities as the leader of Eli Lilly and Company?

Health is important to every person on the planet. We know that healthy people have higher quality of life, learn more at school, are more productive at the workplace, and can contribute to their community in a more robust way. We also know that the path to health is very different based on a person’s socio-economic situation. Our aspiration at Lilly is to make life better for people around the world. Shared value is a priority to me because of the “around the world” part of the Lilly Promise. It enables us to extend our good work to people who may not have easy or consistent access to Lilly medicines.

Take diabetes – a disease that’s reached epidemic levels in many countries around the world and an area where Lilly is a global leader. Successfully treating someone with diabetes requires not only medicines but also health care providers and patients who are educated and supported. Shared value has informed our efforts to provide the education and support to complement our medicines in places like Brazil, Mexico, India, and South Africa.

What is the burning social issue that’s affecting the pharmaceutical sector? How can this issue be addressed through shared value solutions?

I actually see two issues right now – one has to do with the time, cost, and complexity to bring new medicines to market. The other has to do with finding better ways for more people to get access to our medicines. Today, we estimate that our medicines can be accessed by about two billion people on our planet. How can we extend that to five billion?

Shared value has taught us several important things. First, we can look at new markets using a shared value lens and can better identify what the needs are of a new customer segment. We know how to identify these “insights” in our core business – and we bring that expertise to our shared value efforts. Building off that existing capability, we also use a shared value lens for healthcare system assessments so our approach is best aligned with the customer’s needs and the healthcare system’s capability. Next, when we conduct business assessments we look longer term, knowing that we will need to make investments to strengthen the delivery system and patient capability. Finally, we recognize we need a balance of business, social, and health outcomes to show the achievement of shared value. We are very good at business measures so that is relatively straightforward. We are working with our real world evidence/health outcomes team to strengthen approaches to the social and health outcomes we seek.

How are you innovating for shared value at your organization? Share an example

Recently, I asked a cross-functional team to develop a shared value based business model for specific markets. For us, an important innovation was expanding our view of shared value from the corporate affairs angle, where it originated for us, to adding full-time and dedicated expertise from marketing, manufacturing, and finance. With this core team in place we linked it to regional Lilly staff, and, most importantly, directly to affiliate staff in the countries in which we were conducting assessments. To be successful, shared value cannot be a “project” or a part-time assignment. Even at the affiliate level we shifted some staff to dedicated shared value roles. The work is complex, and to create recommendations that my executive team may be willing to invest in has required a great deal of rigor.

What’s the biggest challenge that you’ve faced in implementing shared value?

Our biggest challenge has been answering the fundamental question, “Can Lilly sustainably expand access to our products for new customer segments using shared value as the approach?” There clearly is a wave of support for shared value and many successful examples of its utility and impact. Those examples from organizations such as Nestle, BD, and Cisco, one could argue, should be sufficient. If they can do it then we must be able as well.

Over the last several years I’ve supported our early shared value efforts such as that found in the Lilly NCD Partnership. I have asked my global leadership team to think hard about the approach and I dedicated a portion of the agenda at a recent global leadership conference to the topic so we could consider pushing farther. There were supporters and there were naysayers. I think that skepticism is healthy and the feedback is important. The cross-functional team I assigned to deliver a shared value-based business model has a high bar to meet.

What are you learning about measuring the link between social and business value?

It’s important but not simple. As a global for-profit corporation we are well-equipped to measure business value. And, over time, we have developed strengths in social value assessment too in the form of real-world evidence and health outcomes studies. We’re fortunate to have these capabilities in-house and we are eager to apply them to the benefit of our shared value work. We are in the early stages and anticipate that we’ll learn a great deal about how to design assessments with new customer segments, healthcare providers, and government bodies. This is certainly an area that as we learn we, will be eager to share our approaches and findings.

Lechleither joined the CEOs of PSI and Discovery in the keynote, Building Healthy Shared Value Strategies at the Enterprise Level, at the 2015 Shared Value Leadership Summit: View Event Recap.

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