Corporate Citizenship at Eli Lilly and Company: A Strategic Use of Core Competencies

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The complexities of operating in a global economy create challenges for companies striving to operate in a socially responsible way, especially in developing countries. Many have found that if the notion of corporate citizenship remains limited to philanthropy, companies fail to take full advantage of their core competencies. In contrast, emphasizing key business expertise to engage more effectively with local communities can provide unique opportunities to make a difference at a grassroots level. In this interview with the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), Laurel Vogelsang, associate director for corporate responsibility at Eli Lilly and Company, discusses how the principles of good corporate citizenship can be an integral part of a successful corporate strategy. Founded in 1876, Lilly is the world’s 10th-largest pharmaceutical company. By working with local stakeholders around the globe, Lilly has been able to leverage its expertise to fight such deadly diseases as tuberculosis and diabetes – diseases that can cripple communities and hinder the growth and development of many countries. Lilly’s experience shows that companies everywhere should strive to translate their core business strengths into effective corporate citizenship.

CIPE: Corporate social responsibility, or corporate citizenship, is an evolving concept. What does it mean today for a company to be a good corporate citizen?

Laurel Vogelsang (LV): I think one key element of this evolution is how the understanding of corporate responsibility has moved beyond just the issue of reputation. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has traditionally been very much tied to how companies wished to be viewed. What we are starting to see is less of doing good just for reputation’s sake and more focus on interdependence between business and society. Rather than dealing with what used to be perceived as inherent tension between society and business, good corporate citizenship today is about finding ways to work together. We are thinking more strategically about how we can best leverage our assets and expertise in CSR initiatives.

Laurel Vogelsang is Eli Lilly and Company’s Associate Director of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) for the company’s Office of International Government Affairs. As the Washington, D.C.-based member of Lilly’s CSR team, Vogelsang develops awareness programs to inform policymakers of multi-sector commitments to global health – specifically MDR-TB and diabetes. Prior to joining Lilly, Vogelsang directed and consulted for national and Washington, D.C.-based healthcare partnership programs focusing on aging, minority, and youth populations. In this capacity she developed strategic plans to secure institutional funding from the corporate and foundation communities. Prior to her career in fund development, Vogelsang was legislative director for an Ohio member of the U.S. House of Representatives, handling trade, health, and tax. Vogelsang received a bachelor’s degree from Miami University and a master’s degree from the University of Maryland/College Park.

The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of the Center for International Private Enterprise. The Center for International Private Enterprise grants permission to reprint, translate, and/or publish original articles from its Economic Reform Feature Service provided that (1) proper attribution is given to the original author and to CIPE and (2) CIPE is notified where the article is placed and a copy is provided to CIPE’s Washington office.

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