Our 2021 materiality assessment

Every four years we conduct a detailed materiality assessment to identify issues that matter most to our stakeholders, and where we have the most potential to create value aligned with our purpose. The assessment informs our strategy and our reporting on ESG topics, and guides our impact performance measurement.

Our latest materiality assessment, conducted in 2021, was based on a survey of more than 500 external stakeholders and 12 000 internal stakeholders, and 140 follow-up interviews.

External stakeholders were drawn from our main stakeholder groups, including patients, customers, partners and shareholders. Internal stakeholders – including senior management – were drawn from across our business divisions. Participants were asked to rank the impact of Novartis across eight impact clusters. Results can be seen in the chart below.

Overall, results were in line with our previous materiality assessment conducted in 2017 and were consistent across stakeholder groups: patient safety, access to healthcare, innovation and ethical business practices were again ranked highly. Although environmental sustainability was ranked lower than other impact clusters, it remains an essential component of our strategy and operating model.

Ranking of impact clusters

External / internal stakeholders

Materiality assessment – Ranking of impact clusters (Graphic)

Patient health and safety

This is about the safety of our medicines and is therefore part of our core responsibilities.


Innovation is about helping to address the global burden of disease by researching and developing new medicines for unmet patient needs.

Access to healthcare

We have an important role to play in making our medicines available and affordable to as many people as possible.

Ethical business practices

Acting responsibly and holding ourselves to high ethical standards are closely tied to trust in Novartis.

People and culture

A strong corporate culture helps us attract and retain talent. This topic is also about the health and safety of our employees, and fair working conditions.

Good governance

This relates to our corporate governance: how we manage our company, take decisions and allocate resources.

Environmental sustainability

This relates to our management of emissions, waste and other effluents, and our consumption of natural resources.

Sustainable financial performance

This is about sustainable financial returns and allocation of capital to areas we believe have the most impact.

For full details of our 2021 materiality assessment, please see: