Poor storytelling fails to articulate Merck’s solid commitment to corporate responsibility

The sixth sustainability report from US pharmaceutical company Merck is fully online as part of its responsibility micro-site and available as a 309-page PDF, along with a 24-page highlights document. It clearly sets out its vision of “discovering innovative solutions to the world’s biggest health challenges”, which aligns to the company’s mission and is supported by four strategic priorities: access to health, environmental sustainability, employees, and ethics and transparency.

Successes include increased board representation of ethnic groups (up from 11% in 2011 to 25% in 2012), reduced direct greenhouse gas emissions every year from 2009 (meeting its 10% reduction goal three years early), and a 20% reduction in lost-time injury rates.

But seeking out more insight into the “hows” and “whys” of these strategic priorities is where things get a little murky.

Of the four priorities, access to health is considered No 1. But Merck’s main approach to access seems to be to collaborate and donate – not entirely strategic. The report includes a confusing array of occasionally irrelevant issues that fails to give confidence in a coherent strategy. For example, you might be surprised to see “Merck animal health” and “product safety” among the many issues covered as part of its...

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