Engaging with stakeholders

A cornerstone of our approach is consistent engagement with a wide range of stakeholders, including patients and caregivers, associates, healthcare providers, governmental organizations, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), shareholders and other financial market participants, local communities, and partners from the pharmaceutical and other industries.

Our CEO was invited to co-chair the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation CEO Roundtable, a group comprising 15 CEOs of the top pharmaceutical companies globally. The roundtable focused on collective action related to the COVID-19 pandemic and established several workstreams. Additionally, Novartis and the roundtable are working with various governments and stakeholders on future pandemic preparedness, and Novartis will continue to co-chair the CEO Roundtable in 2021.

Novartis is also active in multi-stakeholder initiatives on business ethics and environmental issues. In October, Novartis became a signatory to the Partnering Against Corruption Initiative, the principal CEO-led platform in the global anti-corruption arena, building on the pillars of public-private cooperation, responsible leadership and technological advances. In September, we joined PREMIER, a new six-year project with the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), focused on evaluating and mitigating the risk of medicines in the environment.

We believe we can help build a systematic and consistent approach to patient engagement across the healthcare system. To this end, we continue to participate in 41 IMI projects supporting the progression of healthcare and science, as well as other patient-focused initiatives and collaborations.

We regularly engage with our associates globally through physical and virtual events, which encourage open dialogue and communication. We run a global quarterly survey in which associate engagement is one of the main parameters we measure.

We also consistently engage with global health stakeholders on key topics. For example, the Novartis Foundation, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Harvard Global Health Institute hosted a series of 14 webinars to explore the role of artificial intelligence (AI) in responding to the pandemic in low-resource settings. The webinars gathered over 3 000 participants. In 2021, the foundation plans to launch the HealthTech Dialogue Hub, an initiative to connect policymakers, tech innovators, NGOs and other key stakeholders and drive the implementation of AI for health in low- and middle-income countries.

The Novartis Foundation and Women in Global Health also co-hosted the #BuildBackBetter Digital Innovation and AI Challenge to support gender equity in digital health while advancing health security. Over 100 startups from all continents participated in the challenge. The winning startup, Clafiya, received USD 10 000 for its innovative digital platform that connects patients in semi-urban and rural parts of Nigeria to community health workers to provide home-based primary care services. As the runner-up, Wheels for Life received USD 5 000 for its innovation in providing prompt triage consultation and transferring pregnant mothers from homes to hospitals to prevent delays in accessing maternal healthcare and reduce maternal morbidity in Kenya.

Engaging the investor community on ESG topics

Novartis has more than doubled the number of investor engagements on ESG matters in recent years, and in 2020, our CEO led our ESG Investor Day for the second time (marking our seventh dedicated ESG event for investors since 2014). In 2020, with ECN members and the Group Head of Global Health & Corporate Responsibility, we held an ESG roadshow series in the Netherlands, France, the US and Switzerland. Further, as part of our comprehensive ESG engagement program, we increased the frequency of our communication, issuing a quarterly ESG newsletter to investors. Please see page 131 of the Annual Report 2020 for key topics discussed during our shareholder engagements.

We conducted five webinars in 2020 to share how Novartis is implementing the outcomes of our previous materiality assessments. Webinar topics included access to healthcare, wealth and health, and measuring the social outcomes of access initiatives (see the appendix in the section "Materiality and reporting"). Each webinar featured internal and external speakers and attracted approximately 80 participants from industry, NGOs, access-related and sustainability groups, and investors.

We also organized and participated in several events to promote the value of measuring business impact beyond traditional financial metrics, an important element in driving the ESG agenda with a broader stakeholder audience. For instance, as part of our impact valuation work, we participated in discussions at a Global Solutions Initiative summit about the true value contribution of business. We continue to drive impact valuation standardization through the Value Balancing Alliance, of which Novartis is a founding member. We are also a member of the Impact Valuation Roundtable, an informal group of more than a dozen international companies seeking to develop and operationalize the field of impact valuation.

Engaging with policymakers

Novartis also engages in dialogue with policymakers and other external stakeholders. Providing policymakers with data and insights enables informed decision-making conducive to improving patient outcomes. Additionally, we work closely with trade associations and participate in industry initiatives, which create opportunities to raise industry standards and exchange best practices. A list of our memberships can be found in the appendix "External initiatives and membership of associations".

Novartis makes financial contributions to support political dialogue on issues of relevance to the company or to certain government projects (e.g., for capacity building). Such contributions need to be fully compliant with applicable regulations, and we only make political contributions in countries where such contributions by corporations are both legal and generally considered appropriate. We publish the amounts of these contributions on our website and, for the US and Switzerland, in the Novartis in Society US and Novartis in Society Switzerland reports, respectively.