Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Preview: BSR Conference, Tuesday

I'll be at the BSR Conference this week and will be blogging about the presentations and discussions, with a particular focus on sustainable supply chains and business development in Myanmar/Burma. I imagine, after looking at the agenda, there will also be some interesting discussions about how business can contribute to the fight against Ebola.  Here's a preview of the two speakers opening the conference tonight.

Dame Ellen MacArthur

Dame Ellen MacArthur, founder of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, will open the conference on Tuesday evening.

I imagine Dame MacArthur will speak about the work done by her Ellen MacArthur Foundation toward accelerating a transition to a regenerative circular economy.  A circular economy is one that is regenerative by design, less linear, more organic.

A regenerative circular economy uses biological materials, designed to re-enter the biosphere, and technical materials, designed to circulate with minimal loss of quality.

Go here for an interactive version of this diagram

A transition would require a systems level re-design to an economy that is restorative by intention, which aims to rely on renewable energy, and minimizes, tracks, and hopefully eliminates the use of toxic chemicals, while eradicating waste through careful design.

The circular economy shifts the focus from product ownership to "functional service," whereby manufacturers or retailers retain the ownership of their products, selling the use of their products instead of one-way consumption. Products are designed to be more durable and to be easily disassembled and refurbished for repeated use.

I will be interested to hear about progress and feedback from manufacturers, customers, and other stakeholders.

Sir Andrew Witty

Sir Andrew Witty is the CEO of GlaxoSmithKline, a global healthcare company that researches and develops vaccines, medicines, and consumer products. Previously, he has worked in GSK's International New Products groups, in respiratory and HIV and infectious disease fields.

GSK has several socially responsible initiatives in progress, including:

  • reinvesting 20% of profits made from sales in least developed countries back in to strengthening healthcare systems in those countries, partnering with NGOs to train frontline healthcare workers to reduce child and material mortality as well as meet wider community healthcare needs
  • developing the world's first malaria vaccine which, if approved and recommended for use, will be preferentially (affordably) priced in affected least developed countries, as well as working in partnership with other organizations to develop new tools and increase the use of existing tools (bed nets, spraying) to combat malaria
  • contributing to the United Nationals Millennium Development Goals by supplying medicines and vaccines and supporting development organizations which help women overcome poverty, among other commitments
These are all interesting, but I hope Sir Witty will spend some time discussing GSK's efforts to develop an Ebola vaccine.  Their Ebola vaccine has shown promising results in preclinical (non-human) studies and is in currently in phase 1 safety trials (human). Results are expected by the end of 2014. If successful, the vaccine will given to thousands of frontline healthcare workers in Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia in early 2015. If the results of that phase show the vaccine successfully protects healthcare workers against Ebola without causing significant side effects, GSK intends to be prepared to accelerate production of the vaccine. Given the current situation in afflicted countries in West Africa, this is welcome news.

I will be interested to hear a status report and Sir Witty's response, if any, to recent comments by Dr. Margaret Chan, the director general of the World Health Organization.

The BSR Conference runs Tuesday through Thursday, in New York. Follow events at #BSR14 on twitter and stay tuned for more from me!

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