While pharmaceuticals companies do sell their AIDS medications wholesale in some poorer nations, the cost still works out to hundreds of dollars per year — well beyond the reach of most of those afflicted. Activists at the ICCR would like to see the companies give up their HIV/AIDS drug patents in emerging markets, allowing local companies to make generics. So far, ICCR officials say they’ve met with stiff resistance. “It’s a huge dilemma for them — making a profit versus the ethical issue,” grants Daniel Rosan, ICCR’s program director for public health. “But our campaign is about saving lives and protecting the interests of shareholders.”
Despite long odds, the ICCR has had success. This year, the group submitted a shareholder proposal to The Coca-Cola Co., asking executives to study the effect of HIV on growth projections. The resolution received a 98 percent yes vote. Bergkamp, a professor at Friend’s University in Wichita who headed up the campaign at Coke, believes consumer-goods companies can use their marketing expertise to help educate the poor about AIDS. She would also like to see Coke put its supply-chain expertise to use. “Part of their strength is their distribution system,” she says. “We can use that system to distribute medicine.”
And how do powerful executives react when they find out they’ve got a 9:30 meeting with Sister Vicki? “Sometimes they approach us with a little trepidation,” admits Bergkamp. That’s understandable. While she says that most of her corporate sit-downs are convivial, “10 to 15 percent of our meetings do get confrontational.” —J.G.
Findings from CFO’s survey of 105 finance executives.