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Corporate Social Responsibility and Business Sustainability, Addressing the Shortages of Essential Care Medicines

Access to essential medicines is part of the most basic medical care for all humans and is included in the vision for all countries to provide universal health coverage. However, according to the World Health Organization report, nearly two billion people have no access to essential medicines, causing a cascade of preventable misery, suffering, prolonged illness, needless disabilities, and avoidable deaths. The shortages worsen over time and are becoming increasingly frequent globally. It does not only occur in low- and middle-income countries or regions but also in countries of all income levels in recent years.

The pharmaceutical industry has become the main culprit of current shortages of essential medicines. People’s perception of this industry is often far different from how the industry perceives itself. Society expects the pharmaceutical industry to have a high standard of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and a strong capacity for Business Sustainability (BS). Yet, in reality, this industry is constantly accused and criticized for failing at both. National policymakers, industry associations, and research scholars keep looking for root causes to address the growing “lifesaving drug” shortages. Hitherto, many gaps remain in the fundamental understanding of the causes of these shortages, and it is hard to align who should provide and/or implement solutions.

My research aims to identify the underlying problems and address the extent and various causes of shortages of essential care medicines and remediation of these shortages by policy changes and socially responsible and sustainable supply chain approaches. The results of this study will enable to improve the level of healthcare and minimize issues and economic losses associated with epidemic outbreaks and future pandemics.

Lan Li is a doctoral researcher at the Vlerick Business School.

She holds an engineering degree from Shanghai Science and Technology University, a master degree in Business and Economics from Ghent university and an IMBA from Hong Kong University.

During her career, she has been a senior executive for several fortune-500 companies. 

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