Jonathan Klein is chief executive and co-founder of Getty Images and chair of the board of Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The opinions expressed are his own.
Recently, Getty Images released its citizenship report for 2012, a declaration of what we stand for as a company.
It’s not enough anymore that companies turn a profit and be held accountable to their shareholders. Those are good things, to be sure, but it’s become increasingly important that the private sector do more to care for the world we live in.
The global economy demands it. Our sense of humanity demands it. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, along with Friends of the Global Fight, recently hosted a pair of events on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., that celebrated this very idea.
The events featured the Global Fund’s partnerships with both the public and private sectors, highlighting critical collaborations with Chevron, The Coca-Cola Company, (RED) and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.
On this World Malaria Day, my thoughts turn specifically to the anti-malaria work of two of these partners: Chevron and Coke.
In Angola, Chevron supported a malaria program in concert with the Ministry of Health. This program distributed insecticide-treated nets to vulnerable people, such as pregnant women and children under age 5, to prevent them from contracting malaria.
Resources were also used for the training of health workers and the expansion of access to anti-malaria treatment. Chevron also partnered with the Ministry of Health to educate its employees and the community about malaria in addition to providing nets.
The Coca-Cola Company, in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, recently led a Global Fund-supported project to lend its supply chain knowledge to the government of Tanzania to help in the delivery of lifesaving drugs. And using its own experience and best practices, Coke was able to create benchmarks for success.
The idea is a stroke of genius: If Coca-Cola can reach the most remote villages in Tanzania with its own products, then why not with critical drugs to fight malaria?
Yes, Chevron and Coke were responding to the needs of their workforces, but their assistance and guidance answers an imperative that goes beyond good business sense.
There are more than 200 million new cases of malaria each year, most of them afflicting children under the age of 5. But prevention and treatment of malaria is incredibly inexpensive and effective: The cost of one insecticide-treated net, plus distribution, is less than $10; anti-malaria medicine costs less than $2 per person.
Advances in malaria vaccines are also beginning to show great promise. When we consider all of the puzzle pieces that are now falling into place, and when we look at the progress and results in Angola and Tanzania – and across the continent of Africa, where almost three-quarters of a million children have been saved from malaria in the past 10 years – we can see clearly that elimination is within our reach.
We’ve reached this critical point in large part because of U.S. government support through the President’s Malaria Initiative and the Global Fund. And continued strong support from the U.S. and other donor governments is crucial if we are to build on the progress we’ve made and avoid backsliding.
But these achievements have also been made possible by private sector partners like Chevron, Coke and countless others, such as Standard Bank, headquartered in my home country of South Africa.
In partnership with the Global Fund, the bank offers pro bono training in bookkeeping and accounting to Global Fund-supported programs in seven African countries.
With 47,000 employees in Africa, Standard Bank is one of the top-ten employers on the continent, and diseases such as malaria have a major impact on the bank’s business. Because of this, Standard Bank has hosted “action days” in Lagos and Abuja, Nigeria, during which staff volunteers visit marketplaces to distribute nets and educate the community about malaria – for example, the importance of preventing standing water in your home and surroundings.
I often say that in my industry, we believe images can change the world. But to put a fine point on it, it’s not the images themselves that change the world, it’s the reactions they provoke in people. People – both customers and employees – are responsible for the survival of Getty Images, of Chevron, of Coke, of Standard Bank.
And when given a window into the affliction of others around the world, people often feel responsibility toward their fellow global citizens. They want the businesses they patronize to feel the same way. It’s good business sense to respond to consumer concerns and to protect the health of our workforces.
But it’s a humanitarian imperative to grasp the opportunity to eliminate a preventable, treatable disease such as malaria. We’re ready and have the will to do it.