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Sustainability - A new engine of innovation for healthcare?

27 June, 2011

Ogilvy report reveals the current impact and future opportunity of sustainability on healthcare marketing

NEW YORK – In the healthcare industry, the R&D lab is the traditional engine of innovation yet a new report issued by OgilvyEarth and Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide reveals that companies investing in sustainability initiatives are helping drive innovative business opportunities in new ways. The report, “Healthcare Marketing in the Age of Sustainability,” offers an overview of the relationship between healthcare and sustainability today, as well as insight on the future direction of these efforts. In a year when 10 drugs contributing to $50 billion in sales will face patent expiration, the report offers a perspective on potential new avenues of innovation.

While it is unlikely that revenue growth will be completely decoupled from the lab in the near term, there is a quantifiable bottom line opportunity to pursue greener, more social products and business strategies. The report finds that long-term industry success will be realized by companies that are able to link their success to solving the world’s most intractable health and environmental problems. Healthcare companies that are investing in sustainability initiatives ahead of the curve see that their own sustainability initiatives are helping them achieve competitive advantages.

“The healthcare company that takes on the leadership mantle will find new business opportunities through differentiation, as well as external benefits beyond the bottom-line, including heightened reputation, recruitment advantages, and partnership opportunities,” explained the report’s author, Jeff Chertack, Managing Director of Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide and OgilvyEarth lead in Brussels, Belgium. “While healthcare companies may not be judged today by their sustainability policies, there are many signs indicating that day is coming.”

The report, the result of interviews with more than 10 healthcare executives and sustainability experts, found that many healthcare companies have already made great strides in reducing their carbon emissions and water use, but the next frontier will involve developing new healthcare products and delivery systems to help society adapt to changing climate, population and disease patterns. The report identifies eight areas that represent opportunities for healthcare companies to differentiate and achieve long-term sustainability on environmental, social and economic levels.

Green as a Starting Point
While green has been the new black for marketing in many industries, it is not the magic bullet for healthcare when it comes to sustainability communications. The social issues that healthcare companies are involved in present an inherent responsibility to people and the planet that other industries do not have.

"As global environmental pressures grow, so will the impacts on human health. And so will the demand for healthcare companies to help prevent and treat diseases and illnesses in which the environment is a causal or contributing factor,” said Bill Becker, Executive Director of the Presidential Climate Action Project. “It has never been more apparent that our health is connected to the health of the planet. Health care companies should look to these emerging environmental pressures as the new or expanding frontiers for their industry.”

The Intersection of Social and Business Opportunity
For companies pursing sustainability as a corporate initiative, the evolution of corporate philanthropy models has created even richer opportunities to support capacity building in underdeveloped or underserved markets. The report chronicles healthcare entities that spent the 20th century exploring disease and treatments now focused on spreading them throughout the world. Companies with products are seeking out opportunities to address some of the most intractable and devastating issues of the day.

From bottom of the pyramid strategies to social enterprise models, healthcare companies like Abbott, Bayer, Lillyand Unilever are innovating new ways to create access to their products in new markets for people in need. Abbott, for example, has trained more than 1,000 community physicians in China on diabetes prevention and treatment as well as 600 healthcare professionals on pediatric nutrition. In doing so, Abbott has helped the country achieve measurable positive impact on the Chinese population.

Customer Feedback as a Pathway to Sustainability
Given the challenge of a decade-long (or more) development process, companies need to look beyond the creation of novel products to re-imagine and reformulate existing products, making them more efficient, sustainable or accessible. Johnson & Johnson and GE Healthcare are taking a new look at existing product lines to do just this.

While it may not be practical or possible to change a marketed product, it may be possible to focus on the supply chain and packaging reduction to achieve sustainability goals. The report reveals that determining where to focus these efforts could be as easy as listening to the customer, creating an opportunity for further engagement and potentially addressing a significant barrier to purchase. For example, J&J shifted packaging for its monoclonal antibody from a single-use cooler to a reusable container at a fraction of the original size. J&J reduced the size, bulk and materials of the shipper without degrading quality to ensure the product arrived viable for use. Given that these shippers are reusable up to 100 times, the return is both financial and environmental.

The report, which provides additional insights on operationalizing sustainability, can be found at and  

Tara May
+1 303-679-4442

Rachel Ufer
+1 646-301-5529

About “Healthcare Marketing in the Age of Sustainability”
In late 2010, OgilvyEarth and Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide conducted interviews with 10 individuals at global pharmaceutical and medical device companies, as well as sustainability experts, to gather their thoughts and insights. The interviews revealed a world that is both significantly more challenging and equally rewarding for companies that have invested in sustainability. The white paper explores the findings of our research–identifying the challenges, opportunities and future direction of the healthcare industry as it relates to sustainability.

About OgilvyEarth
OgilvyEarth is a global sustainability practice that helps brands harness the power of sustainability through strategic planning and communications. OgilvyEarth works with visionary companies that are looking to make sustainability a growth driver for both their business and the communities they serve. OgilvyEarth is a unit of Ogilvy & Mather, a WPP company (NASDAQ: WPPGY), one of the world’s largest communications services groups. For more information, please visit  

About Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide
Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide (Ogilvy PR) is a global, multi-disciplinary communications leader operating in more than 80 markets. Named Large Agency of the Year by The Holmes Report and PRNews, Ogilvy PR blends proven PR methodologies with cutting edge digital innovations to craft strategic programs that give clients winning and measurable results. Celebrating its 30th anniversary in business, Ogilvy PR provides strategic public relations counsel to a variety of clients across its social marketing, public affairs, healthcare, consumer marketing, 360-degree digital influence, corporate, and technology practices. Through its subsidiary, Feinstein Kean Healthcare, the agency also offers specialized expertise in molecular medicine, advanced biomedical research, leading life science and healthcare technologies and treatments. Ogilvy PR is part of the WPP plc, one of the world's largest communications services organizations (NASDAQ: WPPGY, For more information, visit our Web site at

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