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How Novartis Focussed on Stakeholder Engagement

Global healthcare leader Novartis asked SustainAbility to help it refocus its stakeholder engagement activity.

Over a number of years, Novartis and its business divisions had developed a wide range of stakeholder engagement efforts including partnerships such as the Malaria Initiative, expert consultations on material issues, and dialogues through the Novartis Foundation for Sustainable Development.

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Having recently strengthened its Corporate Responsibility strategy, Novartis wanted one clear stakeholder engagement strategy to help generate more targeted and better quality insight and to ensure a consistent approach across the business.

A partnership approach

Working in partnership with GlobeScan, we used a four-phased approach to develop a new stakeholder engagement strategy for Novartis. Our starting point was to interview over 20 key individuals across the business. We then used the output from the interviews and a review of existing activity to inform a current state assessment.

“Working with the team from SustainAbility and GlobeScan to develop a new stakeholder engagement strategy was a great experience – it really helped us identify a set of focused topics and forums to better interact with people which provided insight into our most important corporate responsibility topics.”

Charlie Hough – Novartis Head of Corporate Responsibility Strategy & Stakeholder Engagement

With a clear idea of the strengths, weaknesses and gaps in the existing approach, we held an internal workshop with representatives from key business functions to present our findings and agree the pillars of the new strategy.

New strategic framework

With the pillars agreed and with the outputs of the workshop, we were then able to finalise our recommendations and produce a new strategic framework and action plans for stakeholder engagement. Alongside the framework, we also provided management tools such as a mapping of stakeholder groups and impact measures.

Novartis is currently implementing the strategy and establishing more consistent and continued engagement with key stakeholders in the process. This in turn is enabling the generation of more targeted and better quality input on topics such as access to healthcare strategy, and goal-setting.

The regularity of engagement is also contributing to an increased willingness to share challenges the company is facing on its sustainability journey, which is crucial if stakeholders are to help create solutions.

Finally, the process has delivered a better internal understanding of the various engagement efforts developed across the business, which has in turn improved internal processes and led to more effective sharing of learnings.

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