Who’s tops in ESG in the pharma industry? If you ask patient groups, it’s ViiV, Roche and Pfizer,
That’s according to a new report from PatientView, which tapped these three drugmakers as leaders toward improvements in environment, social and governance (ESG) issues.
PatientView surveyed around 1,500 patient groups between November 2020 and February 2021 and asked them to rank the top pharma companies on how well they are doing on ESG issues. There are, as ever with PatientView reports, two ranking lists that came out of this question.
The first comes from patient groups who are “familiar” with the pharma companies they chose but do not work with them. For this list, Swiss cancer major Roche came up top in 2021, moving up a step from its second place the year before.
U.S. Big Pharma and COVID drugmaker Pfizer was second, up from third in 2020, while HIV/AIDS-focused ViiV healthcare came third, down two spots from its first place the year before.
For the second list, specifically focusing on patient groups who work with the companies they nominated, it’s the same three companies, but in a different order: ViiV takes the top spot, just as it did in 2020, while Roche comes in second and Pfizer third.
That’s one step up from third for Roche on 2020, but a big jump for Pfizer, which went from sixth in the same year to third in 2021.
Roche has been central in the COVID-19 testing battle; the company quickly created a new test when the pandemic took hold in 2020 and more recently introduced new diagnostics to detect emerging variants. It also teamed up with Regeneron to manufacture the company’s REGN-COV2 pandemic antibody treatment.
Pfizer, too, has become much more generally known during the pandemic, first because of its Comirnaty COVID vaccine and more recently its COVID treatment Paxlovid. In its ESG report for last year, the pharma said ESG “is part of everyone’s job at Pfizer.”
This is why the Big Pharma has now linked performance on its ESG goals to executive compensation to “drive the behavior and culture changes required to achieve such ambitious and sustainable endeavors.”
ViiV, which regularly tops PatientView’s most respected pharma company lists, two years ago launched the Positive Action (Global) 2020-2030 strategy, which works towards achieving healthy communities “in a world free of AIDS,” doubling down on its “mission of leaving no person living with HIV behind.”
ESG awareness in general, and notably in healthcare, has typically been low, but there appears to be a glimmer of change here, PatientView found.
“Although the terms ‘environmental, social, and governance’ are far from being universally embedded in the patient experience, or in healthcare culture, recognition of the purpose and definition of ESG is growing slowly among patient groups,” the report said.
Although 55% of patient groups responding to a 2021 PatientView survey said they “did not know” about pharma’s ESG activities, this represents a decrease on the 61% of respondent patient groups saying the same during the 2020 survey.
But these patient groups say pharma can and should do more. Many patient groups would like pharma companies “to improve how they involve patient communities in defining patient-relevant ESG measures,” the report said.
A significant number (140) of respondent patient groups in fact offered their own criteria for pharma’s ESG targets, though it remains to be seen whether the industry would be willing to allow those to influence their own internal policies. The report’s authors urge the industry to do exactly that.
The report concludes, however, that “these are still early days for pharma and ESG” and that the industry currently has “little consensus on what comprises meaningful, measurable ESG targets and actions.”
As regulators are “now looking more closely at the authenticity” of companies’ ESG strategies, “urgency exists” for pharma to develop a more “coherent and genuine approach” to ESG, the report said. “If it is to do so, pharma needs to include, and consider, the patient perspective in ESG, and align the industry’s ESG aspirations with its ambitions to achieve patient centricity.”