Memorandum submitted by the Global Business
Council on HIV/AIDS (Chaired by MTV Networks International)
The Global Business Council (GBC) welcomes the
decision of the International Development Committee of Her Majesty's
Government to conduct an inquiry into the impact of HIV/AIDS on
developing countries' social and economic development. We hope
that the following memorandum, submitted on behalf of Bill Roedy,
Chair to the GBC and President of MTV Networks International,
will assist the Committee in considering the position and role
of business in tackling the epidemic in those countries that are
already feeling its worst effects.
The GBC was launched at the Commonwealth Heads
of Government Meeting in Edinburgh in 1997 under the leadership
of Sir Richard Sykes, its first Chair. The Council determined
to expand and enhance the business response to HIV and AIDS through
leadership and advocacy, a role defined by its members through
discussions with UNAIDS, the National AIDS Trust and others. The
GBC membership (listed below) reflects its international focus;
member companies are either multi-nationals concerned to respond
to the world wide epidemic or they are companies based in countries
or regions seriously affected by HIV/AIDS.
Levels of interest in AIDS, as a domestic concern
and as a global epidemic, have varied in recent years, but HIV
and AIDS statistics have not lost their ability to shock. The
impact on life expectancy (reductions of 29 and 31 years in Botswana
and Zimbabwe respectively by 2010), which the majority of new
HIV infections still occur in people under 25 years of age. The
predicted macroeconomic impact is no longer a concern for the
future. But business has already felt the microeconomic impacts
and these continue to grow. Some of our members can report the
daily effect of increased sick leave, deaths in service, the loss
of skilled and experienced employees. Yet in many affected workplaces,
AIDS remains a taboo subject not to be acknowledged or discussed
Of course business is motivated by the bottom
line. Many of the case studies featured in the forthcoming Global
Business Council UNAIDS Prince of Wales Business Leaders' Forum
report "The Business Response to AIDS: impact and lessons
learned" have that motivation. But many of the others prove
that businesses can have the foresight to appreciate that while
HIV and AIDS may not have a direct effect on their bottom line
today, we should still join the world effort being mobilised against
The GBC accepts that HIV and AIDS are formidable
challenges: governments, international agencies and NGOs have
scored some successes against the epidemic thanks to the work
of dedicated people and the commitment of resources. But, globally,
the epidemic is still growing. As the GBC's founding Honorary
President Nelson Mandela said at the time of our launch:
"The challenge of AIDS can be overcome if
we work together as a global community. All sectors of society
have to be involved as equal partners."
The Council exists to advocate action from business,
preferably in partnership with the other sectors tackling HIV
and AIDS. The advocacy role adopted by GBC members covers the
range of individual business responses as briefly described in
our Corporate Leadership Statement (see attachment).
It is our minimum expectation of business that
they manage HIV and AIDS within their workforce with understanding
and compassion, with a view to ending discrimination and ignorance,
providing support to people living with HIV and preventing further
infections. Addressing this need is often, but not always the
starting point for a more extensive and involved response, addressing
the needs of the wider community, starting with employees families,
customers and business associates.
Individual businesses have already achieved
considerable success by playing to their natural strengths:
Glaxo Wellcome's Positive Action
programme has supported community level action around the world,
assisted by their global presence and background in HIV research.
Levi Strauss has moved from workplace
programmes on the West Coast to being a market leader in support
for HIV community initiatives, often using their retail outlet
to promote and extend awareness and prevention campaigns.
MTV has recognised the threat posed
by HIV to its target audience of young people and responded with
imaginative, hard hitting programming, taking HIV awareness and
prevention right into the homes of young people all over the world;
this programming, developed in conjunction with UNAIDS, has been
offered to other broadcasters free of charge.
The Body Shop has addressed HIV through
identifying workplace, retail and supplier opportunities to act,
helping to develop new models of health care and health promotion
in areas where, without the intervention of business, there was
In all of these cases the businesses have worked
on HIV and AIDS for some years, leading the projects, committing
time, staff, and expertise, and acquiring a vested interest in
They have worked with appropriate partners,
without whom some of the projects would not be tenable. The GBC
advocates more of this type of response.
Individual businesses can achieve important
successes of this kind. But changing the course of AIDS nationally
and internationally requires us to work together. The GBC is itself
an example of this cooperation, a logical extension of some of
the national coalitions business has begun to form to combat AIDS.
In Africa there are now national business councils on HIV and
AIDS in South Africa and Botswana, galvanising the support of
companies and opening communications with government and NGOs.
Similar networks have been started in parts of India, Asia, South
America and in Europe.
The GBC is a partner of the United Nation's
International Partnership on AIDS in Africa (IPAA), representing
the combined efforts of business, foundations and unions all of
which have been represented at IPAA sessions. Through the IPAA
we hope to influence the way business addresses AIDS in Africa,
monitoring and promoting the most successful partnerships as models
for the sector.
The GBC's partners are crucial to our work.
The GBC was founded with the help of the National AIDS Trust and
UNAIDS. Our partners now also include The Prince of Wales Business
Leaders Forum, The World Bank, the ILO, the International HIV/AIDS
Alliance, and BEAD. Each brings important strengths to our role
of informing business on HIV and AIDS, but these partnerships
also provide us with invaluable opportunities to put the priorities
of business directly to agencies and organisations working in
the fields of development and HIV prevention at a strategic level.
One such priority is that we must properly identify
and define success so we can learn from it, helping us all to
build effective programmes in the future. The GBC has started
to gather examples of successful business responses through its
awards scheme: some of the most longstanding business responses
have emerged from a thorough assessment of the problems HIV and
AIDS can cause. This type of assessment and the results of monitoring
of the effectiveness of the ensuing response should be shared:
commercial interests are best served by defeating HIV, Eskom,
a GBC member and founder of the South African Business Council
on HIV and AIDS, has demonstrated its understanding of this, sharing
its models and the details of its programme with other businesses.
Another of our members, Standard Chartered Bank, has similarly
shared its HIV research and programme through cross-sectoral groups
concerned with standards in terms and conditions.
The GBC is determined that business will play
its part in addressing HIV and AIDS. In many ways business has
already shown itself committed and capable. In our efforts to
encourage the corporate sector to respond according to the enormity
of this challenge we welcome the support of governments willing
to embrace the principle of an integrated private sector response.
Communication between businesses and governments is vital if those
countries hardest hit by the epidemic are to implement considered
and effective strategies. We welcome any opportunity to open these
lines of communication or to use them to promote proven HIV programmes.
The Global Business Council on HIV/AIDS