Corporate Social Responsibility within the Pharmaceutical Industry
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The pharmaceutical industry has a unique dual role within society in that the companies within the industry develop and distribute health care products in a for-profit manner. Safety and ethical concerns have resulted in an industry that is one of the most highly regulated globally. Controversies have developed around perceived conflicts of interest emerging from this dual role due to the industry’s size, influence, and primary responsibility to society as a developer and provider of innovative medicines. While public awareness of these controversies has grown, so have global concerns regarding the financial, social, and medical health of individuals. Even as the industry faces persistent and increasing criticism for improperly managing the social responsibilities attributed to its dual role, the industry has increasingly engaged in CSR activities. Presently, companies in the pharmaceutical industry are under pressure to be even more comprehensive and strategic in their approaches to CSR engagement. The purpose of this study was to examine practices and perceptions of CSR within the pharmaceutical industry. Specifically, the study sought to gain an understanding of the perceptions of middle and senior managers of why and how their companies engage in CSR. The study consisted of two qualitative and complementary research methods. The primary research method was semi-structured interviews with managers lasting up to one hour. The secondary research method involved the collection and analysis of CSR-related publications from pharmaceutical companies. A multiple source approach was used for three specific reasons: 1) triangulate and confirm validity of primary data; 2) identify new areas or gaps in the literature not previously identified; and 3) create a more well-rounded understanding of why and how the pharmaceutical industry engages in CSR. For the interview portion of the study, the population consisted of middle-to-high-level managers of multinational pharmaceutical companies operating in North America, who either had significant responsibilities related to their company’s CSR decision-making process or were participants in such programs. The study population for the publication analysis included those pharmaceutical companies whose managers participated in the interview portion of the study. Formal e-mail correspondence was used to contact and invite potential study participants who were informed of the purpose and scope of the research. Non-random, purposive sampling was used to select those within the two key groups of managers deemed to be in a position to provide rich perspectives on the CSR decision-making process within their companies; those engaged with external stakeholders and those with defined roles in CSR. A constructivist grounded theory methodology was applied to the interview process, including the interview guide and data analysis, with the end goal of creating a substantive theory. Coding and categorizing began during the collection of data, and proceeded in a non-linear fashion to allow for the constant comparing and analyzing of the data. These iterative and circular processes developed into theoretical pathways that required further examining and provided additional data. Memos and diagrams were used as markers for thoughts and creative tools to further analyze the components of the developing theory. The result was a theory constructed from multiple perspectives and woven into a multi-story narrative. Managers from eleven companies (nine brand name and two generic) participated in the study. In total, 22 interviews were completed, and consisted of fifteen Canadian managers, six American managers, and one British manager. Additionally, there were three companies where interviews were conducted with managers from both Canadian and American affiliates of the same company. The positions held by respondents within their respective companies included those directly involved in creating, implementing, and reporting on CSR programs and policies, and those distanced from, but still affected by them. The range of perspectives based upon the positions held by participants provided an insightful range of interpretations regarding CSR within the pharmaceutical industry. The resulting substantive theory and its accompanying model present an evidence-based framework for the industry’s process of CSR evolution (core category) and articulate the relationships, interactions, and influences of its four subcategories: 1) social context; 2) CSR perspectives; 3) continual development and reinforcement process (CDRP); and 4) symbiotic continuum. The substantive theory suggests that the pharmaceutical industry is in a process of institutional change, with previously taken-for-granted perspectives and strategies in conflict with, and contested within, the social context of the industry. CSR is no longer just a pragmatic/moral strategy to gain, maintain, and repair legitimacy using loosely coupled practices and structures. Logical connections and framing developed and reinforced by institutional entrepreneurs and their resources have constructed the identity of CSR as an umbrella business strategy that can universally resonate with stakeholders and thereby create greater connectedness with operational locals and stakeholders. Subsequently, CSR can be used to mitigate risks and uncertainties while also fostering a motivated and controlled workforce by reinforcing the internalization of desired meanings relating to the role of CSR. By integrating and merging internal and external conceptions of what is considered ‘right’ and how to serve the self-interest of others in addition to their own, companies capture wider social movements in an attempt to find or construct opportunities to enhance their potential for long-term success and sustainability. If these opportunities mean diverting assets and expertise to address social needs, and in so doing, result in tangible (e.g. market entrance) and intangible (e.g. motivated workforce) returns on these investments, then CSR becomes justified and legitimized by bridging the changing institutional logic.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
DepartmentPharmacy and Nutrition
SupervisorDobson, Roy T.
CommitteeGorecki, Dennis K.; Farris, Karen B.; Findlay, Isobel M.
Copyright DateMarch 2012
Corporate Social Responsibility