In Canada, the communication between innovative pharmaceutical companies and the end consumer (the patient) is carefully controlled by the government through stringent restrictions on direct to consumer advertising. In addition, companies’ marketing and detailing approaches to health professionals are limited by the industry association’s code of conduct rules.
Without these avenues of communication and due to the proximity to the USA (which has more liberal marketing rules and frequent fines and disputes), the innovative pharma industry is unable to effectively promote the benefits of its products, defend against major criticism, or build a strong brand image.
In the Canadian system, a sustainable development corporate strategy serves as an excellent opportunity to communicate to the public and strengthen company and industry image. Ipsos-Reid comes to a similar conclusion for the American industry with its poll: “Pharmaceutical Companies Need To Raise Awareness Of Their Social Investments To Improve Industry’s Image”.
A quick perusal of a few of the largest multinational drug companies’ Canadian websites (e.g., J&J family of companies Canada, Sanofi-Aventis Canada, Pfizer Canada) finds that Canadian companies are not yet providing sustainable development (SD) strategic content. However, according to several multinational headquarter websites, some companies are already undertaking global strategies to address environment protection and “footprint” management (e.g., Pfizer Global).
As the companies begin to roll out their SD strategies, they must ensure their content is more than messaging and fanfare. Consumers, especially those ecologically-savvy, will be able to recognize if a strategy is for show or not, and a duff strategy may actually have a negative impact on a company’s image.
In sum, comprehensive SD strategies could be leveraged by Canadian innovative pharmaceutical companies to improve brand image, and if done properly could have a significant impact on ecological sustainability.